After a two-year hiatus following reports of child neglect and abuse, Head Start will return to Prince George’s County.
The early intervention program will be revived thanks to $33.5 million in federal grants from Easterseals MD DC VA and the Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness of Rockville.
The grants will last up to five years to serve almost 420 children from birth to age 5.
However, the public school system housed about 930 students at 35 sites.
“This is great for children and families in Prince George’s County,” PGCPS interim CEO Monica Goldson said in a statement. “Prince George’s County Public Schools will do our best to help the new providers serve as many children as possible, as quickly as possible. We are providing classroom space and additional resources to ensure success in serving children and families. Together, we can strengthen the network of programs from birth to when students enter our doors at age 4.”
The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the federal department of Health and Human Services, manages Head Start to provide early education services and nutrition programs for children ages 3 to 5. The federal government also offers Early Head Start for toddlers and youth.
Prince George’s officials seek to improve its image and early-intervention education.
The federal agency investigated several high-profile incidents in the county two years ago, including one in which one child was allegedly forced to mop his own urine, another where a child walked out a school during the school day, and a third in which two teachers forced two children to stand and hold objects above their heads for an inordinate amount of time.
Because of those allegations, the agency lost more than $6 million of funding in 2016.
The county decided to relinquish Head Start, but chose to use $5 million of PGCPS money to incorporate a similar program known as “Early Start” that served about 855 students at 35 sites last school year.
The newly expanded Head Start program began Sept. 4 at two locations in the county: St. Anne’s Center for Children and Youth and Families in Hyattsville and United Methodist Church of the Redeemer in Temple Hills.
The Easterseals grant of $18.6 million with another $3.3 million will help serve 218 children.
Larry Bram, senior vice president at Easterseals, said the goal will be to open a center with about 60 staff in a year or two in Oxon Hill. The organization’s offered services will include mental health, financial and workforce development.
“Our mission is really to make profound changes for people who need help,” Bram said. “There is almost no inclusive care in the county and the Head Start needed to come back and stronger.”
As part of the new grant, the Lourie Center received a $14.9 million award for five years to provide serves in the northern and center part of Prince George’s.
Additional services for 200 children, include assistance for pregnant teens, children with disabilities and children from homeless families, are scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
“The award enables the Lourie Center to expand our ongoing services as part of Prince George’s County’s continuum of early childhood care with a focus on comprehensive early childhood development and education and family engagement,” said Jimmy Venza, the center’s executive director.