Ohio to get $48 million to boost kindergarten readiness, expand quality early childhood education and training

Posted at 9:32 AM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-27 09:32:44-05

CLEVELAND — A $48 million Pre-School Development Grant - Birth to Five has been approved to help support early childcare in Ohio. Governor Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will receive funding over the next three years to help increase and ensure quality early childhood education.

The program comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. In a press release, DeWine stated, the largest group of Ohioans living in poverty are children aged five and under. This grant allows Ohio to better serve these children by creating stronger cross-program coordination and higher quality programming in publicly funded childcare, public preschools early intervention and home visiting that form a strong foundation for successful learning.”

While it is not yet clear how much funding will be allocated to Northeast Ohio, local advocates and research groups believe it will be a nice chunk considering the level of poverty and disparity our youth and families endure.

The State of Early Childhood Education

Nancy Mendez, President and CEO of Starting Point, says even before the pandemic struck, two out of three children were not ready for kindergarten, which lessens the likelihood of them graduating and increases the chances of them becoming unemployed adults. Starting Point helps connect families to the best care and education programs, while helping improve their skills through professional development and training.

“Many of our children were in the homes where family members lost their jobs, where family members became sick and had to go to the hospital and unfortunately, some family members lost their lives.”

As Mendez explained, those household and internal experiences are traumatic, especially for impressionable children.

“Because they’re not verbal people think that they didn’t feel it,” she said. “Our teachers at our childcare centers are experiencing larger number of students that are emotionally not prepared for kindergarten.”

Partnerships Creating Change

Brittany R. Pope, Assistant Vice President of Applied Clinical Sciences and Research at Ohio Guidestone, believes research is important in coming to a solution. Though it cannot stand alone without true input from early childcare teachers, parents and community members, and funding support.

“We don’t just put teachers through training. We put them through things that offer them coaching, offer them supports, intrapersonal supports. Meet them at their human side for the whole care of them, the whole education of them, the whole support of them because they are going and translating and doing that with children.”

In partnership, Starting Point and Ohio Guidestone are working to fill the void many educators and childcare centers families are navigating. Ohio Guidestone, which is a faith-based organization, serves 30,000 people statewide by offering mental health and behavioral services and job training. The group has an initiative, Getting Joyful Together, which develops empathy and nurtures a sense of safety and security for children. The play-centered and parent-implemented model incorporates play and love into the classroom. It aims to improve child-caregiver relationships and decrease parent stress levels.

“Last Saturday we started our first pilot project in East Cleveland at George Forbes and I looked at the wonderful work that the folks there were doing and in my head and then out loud I said hey we’re going to do this together,” Pope said. “We talk about building these trauma-informed, anti-racist, highly supportive social, emotionally aware environments for kids but you can’t do that unless you also build those spaces for adults.”

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