Grant will keep family center open

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A federal grant of more than $400,000 will fund the LawrenceCounty School District’s Families First Resource Center for atleast two more years, an official said.

Ilene Huguley, director of the center, said a $444,253 Parentsas Teachers grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice andDelinquency Prevention will replace other federal and state grantsthat expired during the past two years to keep the centeroperating. The center’s operation is entirely funded throughgrants.

“It’s taken us a little over a year to get this,” Huguleysaid.

The grant will be split over two years to provide the centerwith approximately $222,000 each year, she said.

“That is our total budget for the year,” Huguley said. “We arelooking to sustain this program after two years through other grantprograms.”

The center, which is entering its fifth year of service, wasopened through federal and state grants. The federal grant wasdiscontinued in 2003 and the state Even Start grant ended lastyear. The new grant will provide the center with approximately thesame amount of funding it had under the Even Start program.

“We’re sustaining about as much as we did last year,” Huguleysaid. “The Even Start grant was about the same level offunding.”

The Parents as Teachers program strives to increase the abilityof at-risk children up to age 5 to perform at proficient levels forkindergarten. One method used by the program is to target youngparents with home visits, parenting meetings, parenting instructionand workforce training.

“We have parents in this program who are in high school or theGED program,” Huguley said.

Parents under the age of 26, especially single parents orstudent parents, are often unprepared for the responsibilities anddemands of being a good parent, she said. Some display poorparenting skills and a loss of self-esteem and interest inacademics.

The center helps address those needs by teaching parentingskills and involves them with the children’s education as well astheir own.

“We try to instill in them that they can be both good parentsand students,” Huguley said.

The center also teaches young parents how to budget and uses anetwork of contacts to assist with training young parents to enterthe work force.

“A stronger home and work environment carries over into thechildren and provides the stability for children to excel,” Huguleysaid.

Four Parents as Teachers program field representatives workthrough the Families First Resource Center with the goal ofreaching a minimum of 30 families each for a total minimum of 120families.

“We average about 100 families, but we continually seek outmore,” Huguley said.

The center reaches out to families through the schools, churchesand various government agencies, she said.

It is important for parents to participate in the program asearly as possible because some benefits can be more fully utilized,Huguley said.

She cited the literacy program as an example. Infants and youngchildren enrolled in the book program receive one book a monthuntil age 5.

“By the time they’re ready for kindergarten, they could havebuilt up a pretty impressive home library,” Huguley said.

Lawrence County School District Superintendent Russell Caudillcredits the early childhood programs sponsored through the centeras one of several key elements that have had a significant impacton state and federal testing scores in the lower grades, includingreading.