$7M keeps local Head Start programs going strong

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The EOAC Head Start program is boasting about its $7-million dollar grant from the federal government.

The money will help keep the organization's 11 centers open and allow more students to enroll in its Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

According to Debora Jones, Director for EOAC Head Start, the organization plans to focus on kids ages 0 to 3 for the Early Head Start program.

More area kids will be able to enroll because, in addition to the grant, Head Start will no longer serve pregnant women as it did in the past.

Jones said those services were duplicated when Baylor Scott and White created its Nurse Family Partnership outreach program where nurses are sent to the expectant mom's home for prenatal and overall wellness checks.

With small classrooms and a 1-to-4 teacher ratio learning is only part of what Head Start does.

Jones said, when a child enrolls in any of the Head Start programs, with the first 45 days they are screened for hearing, vision, and developmental disorders.

They also have their blood tested for lead.

The program also connects the family with support services when needed.

"So, it's not just the child but it's helping the parents to know about available resources within the community and to make sure that if the family does not have a source, for the child to receive those services."

Right now, there are 112 children ages 0 to 3-years-old in the Early Head Start program.

In the traditional Head Start program, there are 873 three and four-year-olds.

Jones estimates that it costs about $18,000 dollars to care for one student per year.

After 50 years of service to both McLennan and Falls Counties, Jones' goal is to continue the programs with the hope of even more expansion in the future.