As part of a major collaborative initiative led by Starfish Family Services, Southwest Solutions will launch the first Early Head Start program in southwest Detroit this fall, providing free, comprehensive child development services to 118 low-income families.
At a press conference on June 4, Rep. John Dingell announced the federal grant to Starfish and the three partner agencies. The grant is for five years, with $3.6M provided for the first year. The partners are Southwest Solutions, Development Centers and Focus Hope. Each partner will provide both home-based and center-based Early Head Start (EHS) programming in its community.
The new EHS initiative will serve about 300 pregnant women, infants and toddlers in Detroit. This number is four times the number of EHS slots that had been available in the city.
“This is a significant event for our community,” said Ann Kalass, CEO of Starfish, which will serve as fiduciary and provide professional oversight for the collaborative. “It will help hundreds of at-risk families and increase the number of healthy and ready-to-learn children starting preschool and kindergarten.”
EHS is offered to pregnant women and to children, birth to three years old, who meet eligibility guidelines. The mission of EHS is to foster healthy prenatal results, advance the development of very young children, and promote healthy family functioning.
EHS provides a broad spectrum of services, including early childhood education, enriched childcare, medical and dental care referrals, nutrition and healthy living classes, mental health and parent support services, and more.
Studies show that EHS programs significantly increase the cognitive, language and social-emotional skills of children.
“We know that early childhood programs enhance the chances of children succeeding in school and in life, and investing in these programs pays for itself many times over in the long run,” said Joseph Tardella, executive director of Southwest Counseling Solutions. “The most effective programs involve strong collaboration, and we are proud to be a partner in this promising initiative that helps address a critical need in our community.”
Of the EHS 118 families that Southwest Solutions will serve, 94 will receive home-based services and 24 will participate in our new EHS center at Logan Elementary, a recently closed Detroit Public School building.
The EHS program is part of our Children, Youth and Families Center of Excellence, headed by Donna Cielma. Lynn McGregor, manager of the Early Childhood and Family Literacy division, will run the program, which will have an annual budget of about $1M.
“This program results from the incredible efforts of Donna, Lynn and their team who have made Southwest Solutions one of the local leaders in early education programs for infants, young children and their families,” Tardella said.
Our EHS program will begin September 1, and 21 new staff will be hired, including a site leader, six teachers, eight home visitors and one lead home visitor.