Fund boosts extension of Head Start nursery care

Jared Goldberg-Leopold

The Daily Northwestern

Every weekday morning, Monick Henley drops 2-year-old Avante off at day care before heading to class at Evanston Township High School.

Without Teen Baby Nursery, 2010 Dewey Ave., Henley said she wouldn’t be able to afford child care while going to school.

“We’d have to pay the regular $210 (for average day care) a week,” said Henley, a sophomore at ETHS. “This day care — they provide you with Pampers and food.”

Teen Baby Nursery, which provides day care and prenatal care to teen parents, is one of several Evanston agencies that will benefit from a $175,000 federal grant issued to Evanston Early Head Start last month.

The expansion grant — part of $71.7 million awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — allows Evanston Early Head Start to expand its services from 65 to 88 children and their families.

Teen Baby Nursery, a division of the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, will use its portion of the grant to expand services from 18 to 22 parents and parents-to-be, said Mary Lee Swiatowiec, program director at the nursery.

Early Head Start, part of the federal Head Start Bureau, serves low-income pregnant mothers and families with children up to 3 years old by promoting proper prenatal care and early childhood development education. The program, which was established in 1994, locally distributes federal grants to the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston and the Child Care Center of Evanston.

“For us, looking at it as a way to maintain small growth, it’s wonderful,” said Helen Roberts-Evans, executive director of the Child Care Center of Evanston. “Even from the littlest things like the gloves you wear when you’re changing diapers — grants do provide those things.”

In order to receive funding from Early Head Start, agencies must meet comprehensive federal and professional standards, said Kathy Shearer, executive director of the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston.

“It’s a well-documented and a very thorough approach for providing excellent care for the children,” Shearer said.

This grant allowed the Child Care Center, which provides day care to both Early Head Start and non-Early Head Start families, to use another day-care home for lower-income residents.

An Early Head Start center can provide more comprehensive care, with a ratio of one adult to every four children and greater family involvement, Roberts-Evans said.

Beryl McCanton, who is running the new Child Care Center facility, said she has been better able to care for children since she became affiliated with Early Head Start. Because she oversees just four children instead of eight, McCanton can relate to them more easily.

“I have the time to deal with the children in a more economical way and help them with their developmental needs,” McCanton said.

Early Head Start also encourages parental involvement, McCanton said, so she has more opportunity to work with the families of the children she watches as well.

“We can help parents deal with certain issues they might be facing instead of just dealing with the kids and forgetting about the parents,” McCanton said. “I have more people to deal with, but it helps me because I learn a little bit more each time about the kids.”

This kind of parental involvement was a cornerstone for the grassroots program that Head Start’s founders established in 1964, Roberts-Evans said.

“The real emphasis in Head Start is parental involvement,” Roberts-Evans said. “To me, that’s what’s so wonderful about it.”