The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced that Head Start and Early Head Start services will expand immediately in Flint, Michigan to help children and families exposed to lead in the city’s water supply. The expansion was made possible through one-time emergency funds of $3.6 million and is one of several steps HHS is taking as the agency designated to lead the federal response and recovery effort in Flint.
“Early education is one of the most important things we can do to help children overcome the effects of lead,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “This funding for Head Start and Early Head Start will allow Flint’s existing Head Start programs to provide enhanced and expanded services, including additional classrooms, home visiting support, and transportation for families who need to visit the doctor.”
HHS’ Office of Head Start is working directly with the three agencies that currently provide Head Start and Early Head Start services to children and families in Flint. These programs provide comprehensive early learning, health, and family well-being services to 1,011 Head Start children and 166 Early Head Start children in the city of Flint.
“Head Start’s unique local model allowed us work with the grantees to quickly identify what could be done to respond to certain needs of the community,” said Dr. Blanca Enriquez, Director of the Office of Head Start. “These services can begin quickly, serving children for the remainder of this school year and in some cases throughout the next school year. The Office of Head Start is proud to be part of the solution in Flint.”
The funding will be used to expand services by:
- Opening three additional classrooms serving 51 children beginning March 2016 through June 2017 for children in most affected areas;
- Lengthening the current school year by three weeks, bringing the total duration to 36 weeks;
- Providing Head Start comprehensive services to 78 preschoolers enrolled in the school’s special education program; and
- Enrolling 24 additional children in the home-based model.
The funding will be used to enhance services by:
- Increasing the intensity of behavioral health services, health services and nutrition services;
- Providing families more home visiting support;
- Increasing transportation to assist families who need to make increased doctor and WIC appointments and to pick up bottled water for their homes; and
- Increasing parent education activities and staff training relevant to lead poisoning and toxic stress.
Members of the Michigan Congressional Delegation also expressed their support for today’s announcement.
“Every child deserves a chance at a bright future, and every parent should have the peace of mind knowing that their children have what they need to succeed,” said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. “This latest announcement from Dr. Lurie and Dr. Enriquez to expand early education programs is another example of the federal government’s continued commitment to help the families and children in Flint. I look forward to continuing this partnership to ensure that every child in Flint has access to the health and education services they need.”
“Head Start provides the kind of early intervention and support that will be critical to creating a brighter future for Flint’s children. I applaud today’s announcement, which is an important first step in ensuring that Flint kids are afforded every opportunity to minimize the impacts of lead exposure on their physical, mental and behavioral development,” said U.S Senator Gary Peters. “I will continue working in Congress to pass legislation I introduced with Senator Stabenow and Congressman Kildee to help even more Flint kids enroll in Head Start programs and access good nutrition, health screenings, and early education.”
“I thank the Department of Health and Human Services for taking action to expand early education programs in Flint,” said U.S. Congressman Daniel Kildee. “Investing in Flint children so that they get the wrap-around services needed to overcome this crisis, including educational and health support, will help to mitigate the effects of lead exposure. Flint is a strong community and we can overcome this crisis if we make these critical investments in our people and our future.”
Find out more about the HHS response to the water contamination in Flint at www.phe.gov/flint.