Pathfinder Kids Kampus, a child care center based in Huntington, has operated an Early Head Start (EHS) program since April 2010.
Nearly three years later, they’re still getting the word out about it.
“We continue to run into people who have never heard of us,” says Natalie Brautigam, family resource coordinator at Kids Kampus.
Brautigam and her colleagues are eager for families in Huntington County to learn about the EHS program for a variety of reasons, but one stands out above the rest: If a family qualifies financially, it’s free.
EHS programs have existed in the United States since 1994 and are for children from birth to age 3. Federally-funded, the goal of EHS is to promote healthy outcomes for pregnant women, enhance the development of very young children and promote healthy family functioning.
Four unique programs comprise the EHS program at Kids Kampus.
The Prenatal Program is for expectant mothers. Twice a month, a representative from Kids Kampus will visit mothers at home and discuss their pregnancy with them, educate them on areas such as giving birth and breastfeeding and dispense any other information they may need.
Home visits continue in the Home-Based Program, where a representative from Kids Kampus visits the home once a week, helps families set goals and consults with them on health and nutrition matters.
The Center-Based Program takes place at Kids Kampus.
“What it is, is five-day-a-week free child care,” says Brautigam. “That is huge for somebody low-income, who’s trying to work, trying to go to school, they can’t afford child care because it’s expensive, and so this program provides for that.”
In this program, which is open to children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old, development is monitored regularly, school-readiness goals are implemented for each child and a preschool environment for learning and socialization is promoted. Also, a Kids Kampus representative makes two home visits a year.
The Combination Program offers parents the ability to send children, ages 18 months to 3 years old, to a classroom for either two half-days a week or one full-day a week, and also receive two or three home visits per month by a Kids Kampus representative who works with parents on child development and family goals.
Snacks, meals and diapers are provided, and as with the Center-Based Program, a preschool environment is promoted.
Kids Kampus welcomes parental involvement in the EHS program, as every parent is automatically made a member of the parent committee, which meets once a month.
During these meetings, EHS personnel have a topic to speak on and update parents on what’s going on within the program.
The policy council also meets once a month and consists of the EHS directors, parents elected by their peers on the parent committee and community representatives.
“We sit around the table, we look at the program, they see the budget, they see what the teachers are doing in the classroom, they even look at the meals the children are served,” says Brautigam.
The council has a say in the direction of the EHS program and makes suggestions, votes on policies and approves hires.
Kids Kampus accepts children with disabilities and able-bodied children alike into the EHS program, which EHS Assistant Director Joy Koch says falls right in line with Kids Kampus’ mandate.
“I think that’s a big part of what Pathfinder Kids Kampus was developed for, being the children’s division of Pathfinder Services, with the mission of serving all people regardless of their abilities,” says Koch. “So, I think that it’s just been a natural progression for the Early Head Start program to be very encouraging of folks with disabilities to apply.”
Koch and Brautigam both credit the First Steps program in Huntington, which connects parents concerned about their child’s development with evaluators and, if need be, therapy, with referring children to them.
“We feel like we’ve really had a great partnership with the First Steps program in the county and the therapists that serve children in the same age range of birth to 3, they have been very good at promoting and getting those families enrolled in Early Head Start,” says Koch, adding that the number of children who have been enrolled in EHS and served by First Steps at the same time has been as high as 20 to 25 percent at times.
Katie Schwab has her children, Bradley and Elijah, ages 2 years and 18 months old, respectively, enrolled in the Center-Based Program. Prior to that, Schwab participated in the Home-Based Program with Bradley and the Prenatal Program with Elijah.
Schwab says being served by EHS has been as rewarding for her as it has for her children.
“I’ve actually been able to finish my associate’s degree this last semester,” she says. “My kids are doing daycare, but they’re also learning while they’re here.
“I like that they’re learning while I’m working.”
Though Bradley will soon age out of EHS, Schwab says he will probably remain at Kids Kampus in its Head Start program.
“Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the programs,” she says. “I think they’ve benefited our family a lot.”
For more information about the programs, call Pathfinder Kids Kampus at 356-0123.
Pathfinder Kids Kampus is located at 435 Campus St., Huntington.
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