Article Contributed by
Chautauqua Opportunities has partnered with two local Child Care Centers to expand available slots for infant toddler care in the county through an initiative sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start. YWCA Westfield and Lake Shore Family Center have partnered with COI to offer quality care in their centers for children birth through three years of age, expanding the child care options that each center currently offers. This initiative will bring 80 extended day slots to the county, with 16 in Irving, 24 in Westfield, 16 in Dunkirk and 24 in Jamestown.
All of the partners understand the importance of providing children with early access to quality education. These partnerships will allow our organizations to work together to address the desperate need for high quality care for infants and toddlers throughout Chautauqua County. The ten hour program day will support working families or those in school, while assisting high risk children in achieving maximum social, emotional, physical and cognitive development in preparation for school success.
This opportunity was announced at a White House Summit on Early Education, where leaders in the early education community gathered to support President Obama’s commitment to expanding access to high-quality early education opportunities for children across the country. “We are thrilled to see our local Head Start programs fueling change and laying the foundation for success in at-risk communities across the country,” said National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci. “These new federal investments in local Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships are an exciting step forward in our national commitment to ensuring every child, regardless of circumstance at birth, is given the opportunity to succeed.”
The expansion brings with it employment opportunities for child care workers as well as supporting the employment of working parents while providing increased opportunity for Early Education for many local children. This unique initiative brings developmentally appropriate, research-driven, quality child care from the Federal Office of Head Start to State regulated Day Care Centers. New York State Office of Children and Family Services and Chautauqua County Department of Social services are partnering with the Office of Head Start by prioritizing subsidies for families enrolled in this partnership – allowing financially vulnerable families to access up to 10 hours of quality child care each day for 220 days per year without parent fees.
Lake Shore Family Center currently operates a child and adult day program in Irving, providing early education and care for children 6 weeks to 13 years old. School aged children attend the center in the before and after school hours as well as during school breaks, while developmentally appropriate curriculum helps younger children prepare for school readiness through a four year old Universal Pre-Kindergarten program which meets Common Core standards. The center also provides an adult day program for seniors. Intergenerational programs at Lake Shore give a family-like atmosphere for all participants where compassion, understanding and nurturing are key factors. The Early Head Start partnership will allow the center to operate 2 additional classrooms, serving 16 children.
YWCA Westfield currently operates a child care program, which will expand by 24 slots through the Early Head Start partnership, as well as other youth programming. The site will undergo renovations to its current gymnasium creating infant/toddler classrooms as well as adding an adjacent outside play space. Executive Director, Katie Smith says of the YW “We have the experience, expertise and desire to reach this population as well as a belief that early education, intervention and support lead to academic excellence and a better life.” The Early Head Start partnership will also help meet the demonstrated need for infant care in the area and create additional care opportunities for the underserved two and three year old population.
Two sites have already opened and begun serving children at COI’s existing Early Education sites, Connections North in Dunkirk and Holy Family Center in Jamestown. Lake Shore Family Center will be opening soon and renovations are planned for YWCA Westfield with an opening slated for Fall 2016. For more information about the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership, or to enroll your child, log onto www.chautauquaopportunities.com or call 716-366-8176 or 716-661-9430.