The Ohio State University Early Head Start Partnership Program was awarded a $18 million federal grant to provide high-quality early childhood education and services to Columbus families in low-income households through 2024. This is the second grant cycle awarded to the program in order to continue serving 160 at-risk infants and toddlers along with their families.
In 2014, Congress appropriated $500 million to fund these Early Head Start Child Care Partnership grants nationwide, with a goal of partnering with existing child care centers and family child care home providers to raise the quality of early childhood education in the most vulnerable neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty. Housed within the Schoenbaum Family Center, The Ohio State University Early Head Start Partnership Program (OSU-EHS) has gained national attention for its unique model and was featured in January by the Bipartisan Policy Center in D.C. as one of the top twelve programs in the nation.
OSU-EHS developed a novel approach. Not only does the program serve 160 children in eleven child care centers and eight family child care homes, but the families of the children also receive comprehensive support through OSU-EHS’ network of nineteen university and community agency partners. Reciprocally, partners within the university find value in offering their students education both in their field of study and on the effects of poverty. The partnerships include:
- Action for Children
- Center for Healthy Families
- Children’s Hunger Alliance
- Columbus Public Health
- Community Properties of Ohio
- Directions for Youth and Families
- Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities
- Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services
- Help Me Grow
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital School Health, Mobile Care, and Dental Clinic
- New Directions Career Center
- OSU College of Education and Human Ecology
- OSU College of Nursing
- OSU College of Optometry
- OSU Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic
- OSU Nisonger Center
- St. Vincent Family Center
Leveraging experts within the community allows OSU-EHS to provide comprehensive services to address the holistic needs of families, an important two-generation approach proven to improve outcomes for young children. With 80% of the enrolled families earning $800 or less per month, social workers assist with connecting families to critical resources as well as educational and workforce development opportunities while also providing counseling and crisis intervention services.
OSU-EHS also provides significant support to the child care and home partners. In addition to enhanced funding, OSU-EHS purchased classroom furniture and materials, curriculum, and playgrounds for each center. With a focus on quality, the program offers professional development alongside practice-based coaches who work with classroom teachers. For the last three years, the home providers were sent to the National Association for Family Child Care Conference, where one attendee shared, “I finally feel like I am part of something and am respected as a professional.” As the program enters the next five-year cycle, 84% of the program’s child care centers and home providers are rated in Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system at three stars or higher, and 55 of the teachers have advanced their education.
Reflecting on her time in Ohio State’s Early Head Start program, one mother shared that she came into the program during a time that her family was facing many challenges and was, at that time, experiencing homelessness. She wrote,
I am a single mother with two children, a toddler and a preschool-aged child. (My family) faced many challenges in 2017. I know that there are many other single parents facing similar challenges to those I experienced. Unfortunately, many times we slip between the cracks and don’t receive the assistance we need. Early Head Start (provided) me with the financial assistance that I so desperately needed, along with access to community support for me and my children. They invested in us as a “whole”, meaning that they understood the importance of the financial, emotional, physical and mental well-being of families.
I felt empowered because I knew that despite all of my struggles, I was able to keep (my children) in a stable learning environment. I had the peace of mind of knowing that they were receiving high-quality child care. I feel truly blessed to have been a recipient of this program and I look forward to continue watching my children flourish under their care.
The OSU-EHS team is small with only eight full time staff, but they continue to successfully implement a very large, complex program. Sherrie Sutton, OSU-EHS Director states,
Our staff is passionate about this work and believe that all children, regardless of their zip code or life circumstances, deserve high-quality early education and supportive services to create a successful start in life.
Congratulations to the OSU-EHS staff, providers, and partners!