Early education advocates: "Early Head Start is the gold standard"

Early education advocates: "Early Head Start is the gold standard"

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Meeting the needs of low income families to help our children grow up happy, healthy, and ready to learn is a constant challenge. President Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, admitted "childcare is a must-have."

There are federally funded programs aimed at offering quality childcare for families who can't afford it. One of those, is Head Start. All 82 counties in Mississippi offer Head Start, but very few offer


Head Start programs. In fact, the only one in Harrison County can be found at

on Walker Street in Biloxi.

"One of the major things to get ready for school is to teach them how to be in the classroom with other children, participate, make friends. So that whole social emotional aspect is very important."

Mary Harrington is the director of the Early Head Start Center at Moore Community House. Everyday she sees the impact quality early education is having on infants and toddlers in Harrison County.

"They learn their basic colors, their letters," she said. "By the time they leave us, most of the time they can pretty much write their names know most of their letters, their numbers."

Moore Community House Director Carol Burnett explained the curriculum is very thorough.

"It is a service for very low income families. It's also a service that has very comprehensive federal performance standards that make it a very rigorous childhood education experience."

Early Head Start serves children birth to age three.  For eight hours a day, even through the summer months, children are in the classroom.  They eat breakfast, lunch and snack at school, and parents who qualify don't have to pay for any of it.  It's all federally funded, and administered through Moore Community House.

"Head Start and Early Head Start target families that are at 100% or 130% over the federal poverty level," said Burnett.  "We have room in our program for 104 children, and we usually have a waiting list of 150 to 200 children. There's a great need."

President Obama in his state of the union address, addressed that need saying, "It's time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women's issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all us."

Carol Burnett agrees wholeheartedly.

"I believe that Early Head Start ought to be available to every family with an infant toddler, regardless of their income level. It is the gold standard for early childhood care for infants and toddlers."

Early Head Start works with pregnant women and helps babies transition from home into a child care setting.  It also serves children with disabilities.

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