November 26, 2014

Grant money to benefit Early Head Start programs in local communities

By Jeff Patrus|Staff Writer
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NORTHEAST MICHIGAN — Local families with children ages 0-3 stand to benefit from a recent grant awarded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) said that the department awarded a total of $1,038,871 to NEMCSA, which will allow NEMCSA to expand its services to an additional 108 pregnant women, infants, and toddlers in 12 different Northeast Michigan counties (including Arenac, Ogemaw, and Oscoda), with 15 new jobs created as a result of that funding.

Earlier this month, NEMSCA Executive Director John Swise announced that the organization would expand its Early Head Start program to include Alcona, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego, and Presque Isle counties. Previously, its Early Head Start program encompassed six other Northeast Michigan counties (Alpena, Arenac, Bay, Cheboygan, Iosco, and Ogemaw). He also said NEMCSA has been operating the Early Head Start program since 1999.

Swise said his goal is to get the 15 new staff members on board as soon as possible. He added that he hopes the programs in each of the 12 counties will be operational within 60 days, or by March 1, 2010.

He explained how the organization’s Early Head Start program differs from its Head Start program.

“Early Head Start is much more home-based, much more developmental as far as infants are concerned,” he said. “This has much more to do with overall development. Head Start is about preparing kids for what school brings. It’s a little different curriculum.”

He also said the home visitors, part of the agency’s “largely a home-based” Early Head Start program would make home visitations to clients in the community, make referrals, and work one-on-one with children and their families as part of their job.

As part of their work, Swise said home visitors would visit each home about once a week and “spend two to three hours” with each child and their families. He added the home visitors would make referrals to other agencies and work on an individual basis with each family.

The agency submitted the grant application in July, according to Swise, with the application being “about 1-1/2 inches thick.” He said the application process was quite extensive.

“You have to prove a need,” he said. “This is for local employment. You have to put in staff credentials.”

Swise said that NEMCSA has been around since 1968, and the programs that it administers include Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Area Agency on Aging, as well as operation of the Michigan Works offices in the agency’s service areas. He said the agency also has fiduciary responsibility for homeless prevention programs in Northeast Michigan, meaning it disperses the money to those programs.

Families interested in applying for Early Head Start services may obtain more information at www.nemcsa.org/headstart.

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