Ashley Horn picks up her daughter, Icess, from preschool.

Ashley Horn is a young, single mother of four kids under the age of 12 living in Vancouver. In the last year she’s gone from struggling financially and living in transitional housing to having a part-time job, being enrolled in school and having a stable living environment. And she got there with the help of a preschool program for her daughter that also matched her with family services support.

Ashley’s youngest, daughter Icess, is enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP); a comprehensive preschool program that provides intensive support designed to help three and four-year old children hone the skills they need to be ready for kindergarten. While the program gives Icess social, emotional and cognitive skills to help her succeed in kindergarten and beyond, it also provides a lot of family support.

“We best serve the needs of each child by also serving their families,” said Chvonne Wardrop-Long, ECEAP Family Service Worker for Educational Service District (ESD) 112. As part of Icess’ enrollment, Chvonne meets with Ashley at least three times during the school year. In the first meeting they look at the five major pillars of self-reliance and economic mobility together. Ashley, and others with kids enrolled in ECEAP, assess where they are and decide for themselves where they want to be. Family Service Workers like Chvonne gather information and resources to help achieve those goals and then walk beside the families as they pursue them; offering support and guidance as they progress and celebrating successes.

While Ashley’s had some setbacks, she’s come so far and continues to move toward her ultimate goal of being self-sufficient and providing for her family. She’s enrolled in classes at the Aveda Institute, has a job at Burger King and she and the kids are in a stable living arrangement with her mother while she gains financial stability.

Hundreds of Clark County kids–and their families–benefit every year from free preschool provided by ESD 112. ECEAP enrollment is still open for this school year and there are currently 100 slots available for eligible families. While there are no geographic boundaries for parents, centers with open slots are in Battle Ground, Evergreen, and Vancouver school districts.

Children are accepted into ECEAP based on their age, family income, and other developmental or environmental risk factors. Parents can call 360-952-3470 to find out if they’re eligible and to apply for enrollment.

Read a feature story from The Columbian here.