WESTPORT, Conn. (March 25, 2014) — Save the Children will assume leadership of Head Start and Early Head Start programs in nine central and western Arkansas counties as of April 1, the organization has announced.
Save the Children already serves nearly 6,000 children in Arkansas through school-based and early childhood development programs across the state, including Head Start programs in the Delta region. Active in the United States for more than 80 years, Save the Children works to reach children in rural, high-poverty communities early, in order to help them succeed in school and life.
The national Office of Head Start named Save the Children as the grantee to lead Head Start and Early Head Start programs currently serving 950 children and their families in Conway, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Perry, Polk, Pope, Scott and Yell counties. The programs are currently administered by a Head Start contractor, Community Development Institute Head Start.
“We’re thrilled that we’ve been selected to lead these life-altering Head Start programs in Arkansas,” said Judith Jerald, Save the Children’s Executive Director for Head Start. “Our aim is to continue offering high-quality programs to the children and families currently enrolled, while enriching services through Save the Children’s expertise in family engagement, early childhood development, literacy and health and nutrition.”
Head Start is a federal early childhood development program aimed at promoting school readiness and social and emotional development for children from low-income families. Services include a mix of high-quality classroom programs and home visiting for children from birth to age 5, as well as comprehensive family services.
Save the Children is committed to closing the achievement gap that low-income children often face, which starts well before school does. A recent study showed that children living in poverty may fall 6 months developmentally behind by the time they are 2 years old. From there the gap only grows.
“Early childhood education is essential to helping children enter school ready to succeed,” Jerald said. “We’re passionate about this work and excited to help more Arkansas children reach their full potential.”
Save the Children runs its own early childhood education program, “Early Steps to School Success” in Arkansas and 15 other states. Its current Head Start programs serve children in Louisiana and Arkansas’ Lee, St. Francis and Woodruff counties, and the organization will also soon run a Head Start program in Mississippi’s Sunflower County.
Save the Children also provides literacy programs for struggling readers and anti-obesity focused health and nutrition programs in elementary schools across the country, including in eight Arkansas counties. In addition to its focus on rural education, Save the Children’s domestic work also includes protecting children at times of emergency. The organization served 240,000 children across the United States last year.
Save the Children is retaining current Head Start staff in the nine Arkansas counties it will now serve.
“We’re very excited to hire on these experienced and dedicated teachers and staff who have offered high-quality services to the children and families of their communities for many years,” Jerald said.
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