Head Start changing lives

By Becky GINOS bginos@davisclipper.com

FARMINGTON—The first five years of a child’s life are vital and ideally that time would be spent in the care of a loving parent. Unfortunately, not all children have that option. That’s where the Davis Head Start Program steps in. “Some parents have to work full time, many work more than one job,” said Teresa Oster, director of the program. “In such case, Davis Head Start is available to provide high-quality education and care for children ages birth to five.” Early Head Start provides services to expectant mothers and children up to age 3. “Expectant mothers receive home visits from a prenatal educator to provide them with information on pregnancy and community resources,” said Oster. “Early Head Start is currently funded to serve 101 infants and toddlers. Unfortunately, 112 more children are on a waitlist wishing to receive services.” Of the 101 served, 12 are in foster care, 25 are experiencing homelessness and seven are receiving special education services in the classroom, she said. “There’s been an uptick in defined homelessness. It’s anytime a home is unstable, they’re couch surfing or staying with a friend,” said Oster. “Especially in Davis County we don’t think we have homelessness. But it’s families who every other night have to move and don’t have a place each night.” Head Start is for children 3 to 5 years old and to be eligible a family must make around the federal poverty level or be categorically eligible by being in foster care or experiencing homelessness, she said. “It’s more than just a preschool program,” Oster said. “It provides education for children focused on preparing them to be successful in kindergarten and life. We recognize that the parent is the first and most important teacher. Our goal is to make sure families have all the skills and resources available to be that teacher. We have them for such a short amount of time while parents are with them throughout life.” Oster said they have a high parent participation rate. “Our parents regularly attend parent education classes, evening events such as literacy night or cultural celebrations and attend class meetings,” she said. “We have a strong fatherhood component where fathers/grandfathers enjoy special outings with their children.” Brett Lund is the Family/Fatherhood/Volunteer Specialist for Head Start. “We focus on engaging fathers as early as possible in the lives of their children,” he said. “We use the term ‘father’ broadly. It can be fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, etc.” Lund said they hold a variety of activities for dads, kids and families. “We have a cultural celebration to better understand the diversity of our program, arts in the outdoors and go to the dinosaur park,” he said. “We try to connect them to what’s in the community.” They also host a monthly dinner called “Dad’s Diner” on love and logic. “It’s to help dads better understand how to discipline in a loving way,” said Lund. “We hope it opens up support for one another to help them feel more confident in their role as a father and let them know how important they are to their child’s education.” Recently, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd visited the Head Start class at Antelope Elementary and read with the children. “He’s a good role model for the kids,” Lund said. “The more men we can bring into the classroom gives them one more positive example that there are good men out there trying to help children prepare for life.” The children in Head Start are not the only ones who benefit either. Parent Jamie Waters became involved when her son started in the program and ended up achieving her life-long dream of becoming a nurse. “I want to tell you how grateful I am to Head Start,” Waters told the school board at their last meeting. “It was such an important support system. It’s been a huge gift. I didn’t intend for it to change me in the process.” We all have things that come up in life, she said. “It was a dream of mine to become a nurse but it faded because of life circumstances,” Waters said. “I was chair for my child’s class and I met a lot of people. I grew and it made me want to make a difference. It’s amazing to have people believe in you. Sometimes all it takes is one person to encourage you. I had a lot of people cheering me on.” Waters said it felt surreal to graduate. “As my child presented me with my pin it was amazing,” she said. “I’m starting a career as a nurse. My life and my son’s life wouldn’t be the same if not for Head Start.”


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