Teenage parents will soon be able to get child care advice and training from the Chattahoochee Valley’s first Early Head Start program.
The program, which held its grand opening Monday morning at the Teenage Parenting Center, will focus on children from birth to three years old and pregnant mothers, teaching teen parents about child development and parenting skills. The program will also encourage increasing breastfeeding and getting fathers more involved.
The Early Head Start program is being funded by a $2 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was created by Columbus State University, Enrichment Services Programs and the Muscogee County School District.
Evelyn Blalock, an associate professor at the university and director of CSU’s Birth to Five Institute, said they decided to focus on providing services to teen parents after community focus groups said more services were needed for teen parents, to increase high school graduation rates and decrease substance abuse and multiple teen pregnancies.
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“There was a huge need,” she said.
The program will provide services at the Teenage Parenting Center and at six classroom near the Columbus Public Library, as well as intensive home-based training for new parents during their child’s first six weeks.
Blalock said she also plans on following up with the children in the program through Head Start and elementary school to see if the Early Head Start program make a difference in student achievement.
More than 400 parents applied for the first 72 slots in the program and Blalock said they will begin going through another round of applications in August. Twenty-four of the slots went to students in the Teenage Parenting Center.
Monica Lopez, a high school junior, said she hopes the program helps her get her two-year-old daughter Emily, ready for elementary school.“I’m hoping to learn how to have more patience and to discipline her the right way, so my daughter can be a person people like,” Lopez said.