Anybody who has driven by Kids Connection in Fairbury will note that there has been a great amount of activity going on at the building; however, the building isn’t the only thing receiving upgrades.
On Monday, a crew from Schoen’s Roofing completed a project to renovate the roof at the building. Shari Wurtz-Miller, Head Start Director at Blue Valley Community Action (BVCA), explained that this roof project is one of several renovation projects that provide some needed upgrades at the Kids Connection facility that have become possible through a partnership with BVCA.
“We were able to go into Kids Connection because we got some funds for renovations through a grant,” said Wurtz-Miller. “We renovated the infant/toddler classrooms. We basically installed a wall in a larger classroom and made it into two classrooms. We were also able to remodel the kitchen.
“There was also a separate grant that we wrote to help fix the roof,” Wurtz-Miller continued. “They had a lot of drainage issues, so we wanted to install a pitch roof to keep it from leaking. Overall, it’s getting a pretty good facelift.”
This partnership has also allowed for a new program to be offered that will help to focus on early-childhood development.
“This grant requires that there be at least one adult there for every four children; so it’s a good ratio,” Wurtz-Miller said. “We realize that childhood development starts at a very, very young age. The sooner we can start working with a child, the more we can help them develop and help them to be ready for preschool, that will help them to be successful later in life.
“It’s a new concept by Head Start,” Wurtz-Miller continued. “It’s asking Head Start programs to work with in-home child care or child care centers. So, we go into Kids Connection, we’re actually contracting with them, to provide some teaching services so that we can have an early Head Start option for families.”
She explained that this is a relatively new option for families in Fairbury, noting that prior to this partnership, there was only an in-home program that they were able to offer.
“Currently, in Fairbury, we have a home-based option,” Wurtz-Miller said. “So, we go in and do home visits with the families. This allows us to have families that are working, or going to school to be able to receive child-care services at a quality child-care center. We have staff going into Kids Connection and training the staff there. We’re helping all the teachers and teacher aides get their CDA, which is an early-childhood teaching certificate.”
Families qualify to participate in this new Head Start Program at Kids Connection based on their income guidelines. Wurtz-Miller explained that if families qualify for this new program, they will be able to receive free child care.
“We are contracting with Kids Connection to provide those child-care slots,” said Wurtz-Miller. “It’s a zero to three program, so we can take them at six weeks of age, and, once they’re enrolled in our program, they can continue on that program until the child turns three. Once they turn three, then we try to transition them into either our Head Start, Step Ahead Program, or find other preschool programs in the community that they can attend.”
Throughout this program, they observe the children as they continue to develop, and they look for ways to overcome any barriers that may hinder their growth. They focus on several different subjects, including health, nutrition and intellectual development.
“The thing with this is we’re trying to help kids of all ages, so we’re working with the entire center to get all the staff to receive their CDA to offer that to all of the kids at Kids Connection,” Wurtz-Miller said. “Our goal is really just to help provide more professional development for the staff that are there. With this, we’re able to bring in a little more expertise than most child-care centers have available.
“I think the biggest benefit is the one-to four ration; it allows the child-care providers to spend more time with each child, which can help them to catch if a child is not developing as much, and we can help to get them the services that they need,” Wurtz-Miller continued. “That helps children to be more successful down the road. I think also the professional development is important. We’ve increased the number of positions at Kids Connection, so that’s exciting to be able to employ more people in the community.”
Parents are encouraged to apply for this program. Wurtz-Miller explained that this is a beneficial program because it does not only focus on helping children to grow; it aids in the growth of the family by offering guidance for parents as well. She is grateful to the members of the community as well as the members of the Kids Connection Board, which she noted has been very helpful while working to develop this partnership.[starbox]