An early start

Early Head Start program, which prepares children for school, is accepting applications

Markesha Pinkney, 19, colors with 2- and 3-year-olds in the Early Head Start program at the Child Development Services Inc.

ELIZABETH HAMILTON/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

Parents who want to instill the love of learning in their children as early as possible, while also having their needs met to improve their own lives, should make a visit to the Childhood Development Services Inc. Early Head Start program a top



What: The Childhood Development Services Inc. Early Head Start program.
Where: 530 NE Waldo Road and 1700 SE 35th Ave.
Information: Call at 352-377-3470 or 352-672-6979.


The CDS Early Head Start program, which serves children 6 weeks to 3 years old, has two locations in east Gainesville: 530 NE Waldo Road and 1700 SE 35th Ave., formerly Prairie View Elementary School.

And applications are being accepted now for the upcoming school year.

The primary goal of the program is to make sure children are ready for school, with an emphasis on language development.

Heather Shepherd, manager of CDS Early Head Start in Alachua County, said enrollment is open throughout the year and applications, which are now being accepted for the 2013-2014 school year, can be completed at either site.

To be eligible for the next school year, children must be 2 years old or younger and born after Sept. 1, 2010. Services — which are for unemployed and employed families, foster parents and families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Social Security — will be provided to all children, including those with mild to severe disabilities. Parents will need proof of household income for the past 12 months and the child's birth certificate.

"Our main goal and focus is to make sure we provide a quality learning experience for the children," Shepherd said.

Shepherd said the hours for CDS Early Head Start are from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, with office hours from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are a total of 147 spots available in the program, with 75 at Prairie View and 72 at the Waldo Road location. However, openings are not available at this time, but Shepherd strongly encourages families to get on the waiting list.

The program receives 80 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and 20 percent from in-kind services and other sources.

The program uses the Creative Curriculum for Early Childhood, which is based on the philosophy that children learn best by doing things and using all of their senses, including hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting and touching. Also, students will get breakfast, lunch and a snack, and the program does provide diapers for students.

Luzonia Waters, program director for CDS Early Head Start in Alachua, Citrus, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Monroe counties, said the program only hires the highest qualified teachers and currently is hiring teachers who have national childhood development associate and Florida Child Care Professional credentials. She said supervisors are required to have an associate of arts degree in childhood development or higher.

"We need qualified teachers who meet our credentials," said Waters, adding that the program also is looking for volunteers, especially retired teachers.

The facility on Waldo Road has nine different classrooms, several offices and a kitchen. Some parents stay and interact with their children in the classroom after bringing them to school.

Elizabeth Hurley of Gainesville recently sat in a classroom with Anthony Hurley, her 7-month-old son. She played with him before going to work and said she is happy Anthony is in Early Head Start.

"So far, he seems happy here and he is happier throughout the day because he gets to play with more toys and he gets to interact with the other babies," Hurley said. "I can tell he is just a happier baby."

Shepherd said CDS Early Head Start not only serves children, but the entire family. She said the program also has services for expecting mothers and other family members who may need referrals to a wide array of social service agencies.

"The expecting mom program is where mothers come in while they are pregnant and we ensure that they get their prenatal care," Shepherd said "We also do referrals for any social services they may need."

Shepherd said the expecting mothers are also trained on car seat safety and breast feeding. She said the requirements for the program include being an expecting mother of any age and meeting federal poverty guidelines.

"The program is designed to assist the most needy families first," Shepherd said.

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