IOCC Partnering to Give
|Volume 12, No. 3
Children in U.S. a Head Start
Baltimore, MD A classroom full of three and four year olds dig into their bowls of Cheerios. On closer inspection, you see that their placemats are also diagrams marking where to place bowl, spoon and napkin. This is a "Family-Style Meal" at a Head Start program in suburban Baltimore, meant to teach these pre-schoolers etiquette at meals.
After breakfast, their teacher, Cindy Kleiman, gives them a lesson on fire safety, explaining the purpose of a fire hydrant. She passes around a poster and the children giggle at a picture of a Dalmatian wearing a fireman's hat.
Head Start is the federal program that provides millions of low-income children across the U.S. with comprehensive nutrition, health, education, and parental involvement services. "We see a desperate need for this program," says Kleiman who reports a growing trend in grandparents raising grandchildren. "Often I go on home visits and notice lots of people living in small and sparsely furnished apartments."
Head Start also provides a range of services for parents. Tess Walker, a full time social worker with Head Start at the same Baltimore location, has a client load of 34 families. Walker helps parents with everything from writing a resume to finding child-friendly events at local museums. "We really provide an outlet for parents to listen to their concerns, but we also make it clear to them that this is not daycare, this is preparedness for the first grade and kindergarten," says Walker.
Since 2008, IOCC has been providing the National Head Start Association with over $3 million dollars worth of books and school supplies. IOCC's assistance has reached Head Start programs across the country. IOCC is further exploring the possibility of linking Orthodox volunteers with Head Start centers throughout the country as part of IOCC's US Program.
Ayesha Clatterback, a Head Start coordinator in the Baltimore area who received IOCC's shipment and sent portions of it to Head Start centers around the country says that early intervention is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. She has seen generations of Head Start children stay in touch with staff members like herself for further assistance as they apply for college and full time jobs.
"It's really making a difference," she says.