Peninsula Head Start program gets $1.9M stimulus boost

February 1, 2010 7:19:01 PM PST
Federal stimulus money is being put to use at an early Head Start program in San Mateo County. It is a very early education program that is targeting children well before school age.

Isaiah Arroyo is 2 1/2 years old. For the past four months he has been in a special early Head Start program designed for infants and toddlers.

"His vocabulary is a lot better. I can clearly understand what he says," said parent Carolina Rivera.

The support Isaiah needs will now increase because of a federal stimulus grant. Of the $5 billion in stimulus funds available to early Head Start programs, San Mateo County received $1.9 million. That money will go to improve the quality of the lives of their families as well.

"The children and their families that are involved in the program will now have a case manager who will help them with life-changing situation, how to deal with them, counseling, metal health workers, medical, dental," said Bruce Thompson with Family Service Agency.

The $1.9 million granted to Family Service Agency of San Mateo County will help expand their programs at 21 infant and childcare sites.

Head Start was launched in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson as a child development program for low-income children. However, it has not always been entirely successful.

Merrill Vargo is with Pivot Learning Partners which works to improve achievement in public schools. She says part of the problem is that many of these kids have lacked support at home.

"Does anybody at home have time to talk to their kids in full sentences using a big vocabulary?" said Vargo. "If you are going to do one thing for your child, that's it."

Family Service Agency says that is what the stimulus money will now help with.

"Part of our program is to have a wrap around to make sure we are giving the parents what they need to empower them to advocate for their child when they get into public school, and to make sure that their child is getting what they need, not only here but at home," said Mary Chamberlain with First Step Child Development Center.