Educational Service District 112 has been notified that it is the recipient of a $1.6 million federal grant to fund child care center-based Early Head Start (EHS) services for families in the Vancouver, Evergreen, Ridgefield and Kalama school districts.

In partnership with the four school districts, the “Early Head Start Child Care Partnership” grant is funded by the Administration for Children and Families. It provides a total of 84 new slots designed to expand high quality early learning in Southwest Washington. 48 new slots at Vancouver Public Schools will enhance services at existing centers and serve 24 infants/toddlers through the district’s teen parent program at Hudson Bay High School. Evergreen will receive 12 slots at the Park Crest Early Learning Center; Ridgefield School District will receive 16 slots at South Ridge Early Learning Center and Kalama School District in Cowlitz County was awarded eight slots to develop a new program. Districts will help with outreach and recruitment to identify eligible families and help meet enrollment numbers in all locations. An additional allotment will pay for staff training and program development.

According to Jodi Wall, ESD 112 Executive Director for Early Care and Education, those involved in the grant partnership are deeply committed to ensuring high quality early learning experiences and family access to support programs. “This provides a tremendous opportunity and we are so excited to work with our partners to bring these valuable supports and resources to our most vulnerable families,” said Wall. ESD 112’s EHS program already provides home-based services to 60 families. The center-based approach is designed to support working parents with the goal that all enrolled children will be eligible for child care subsidies.

Both Clark County school districts and the Kalama School District in neighboring Cowlitz County are showing increasing rates of poverty and drastically increased involvement with child welfare, teen parenting, and opioid use (up 246% in Clark County and 113% in Cowlitz County since 2002). At the same time, the cost of family child care has risen 10% between 2014 and 2015. “While there is much more work to do to help families in poverty, these new services will help expand our reach to meet an urgent community need,” said Wall.

These new center-based services will become part of the ESD 112’s network of early learning services, including EHS home-based services, licensed child care at 29 centers, and the ECEAP preschool program, which serves over 400 3-5 year olds.