Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Early Head Start-Child Care (EHC-CC) Partnership governance board members, policy council members, parent committee members, a host of community partners, friends and parents reviewed accomplishments and shared experiences as they took a look forward to upcoming events at a partnership luncheon recently.
Early Head Start is a comprehensive child development program serving children birth to 3 years of age. The partnership initiative is a collaborative effort of UAPB and 14 other community partners dedicated to engaging parents as primary caregivers and teachers of their infants and toddlers.
Luncheon speaker Tonya R. Williams, director of the Department of Human Services- Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, said she keeps a graph depicting early brain development in children on her desk to remind her of the importance of early childhood education. She said that babies begin learning in utero as their sensory pathways for vision and hearing are developing. When born, language development begins and higher cognitive function peaks at 4-years old. Early childhood educators should think of themselves as “brain architects” as they hold the future of developing brains in their hands, she said.
“Early Head Start programs are located at 15 sites throughout southeast Arkansas thus ensuring that babies and toddlers in the area have access to programs and experiences which ultimately will result in a love of learning and readiness for pre-K programs,” said Dr. Marilyn Bailey-Jefferson, executive director of the EHS-CCP project and director of the UAPB child development center.
A review of the year-old program outlined accomplishments which include
- Development of an Adult Education Program in Eudora, Arkansas; GED for parents serving seven parents
- Delivery system of free books for parents to set up a home library for their children
- Funding for a gardening program for each partner site
- Books, food and furniture supplies to centers
- Drop in and play program access
- Monthly parent meetings
- In-kind donations of $368,000
- Community economic impact – a multiplier of seven is typical when computing the community economic impact.
Center directors aren’t resting on their laurels as upcoming events include a dad’s day at each center, establishment of a resource incentive store where parents can earn parent bucks to spend at the store by volunteering at their child’s center, celebrating Children’s Week at the Pines Mall, and a community garden at each site where parents and their children will grow and harvest vegetables, and learn to prepare nutritional meals.
The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Initiative is funded by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start (OHS) in response to research that indicates the time from conception to age 3 is critical in the development of infants and children. Learning opportunities with consistent caring relationships are necessary for the optimum development of children from infancy, said Dr. Bailey-Jefferson.