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F.C. Daycare Uses $1 Million Stimulus Grant for Expansion

The Bailey’s Crossroads-based Higher Horizons Daycare Center will expand its Early Head Start program in the coming months thanks to a $1 million federal stimulus grant. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act monies were designated to the center in December. higherhorizons

The Bailey’s Crossroads-based Higher Horizons Daycare Center will expand its Early Head Start program in the coming months thanks to a $1 million federal stimulus grant. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act monies were designated to the center in December.

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EARLY HEAD START students at Higher Horizons in Falls Church develop their sensory skills playing with snow flurries indoors. (Photo: News-Press)

The daycare agency assists over 200 low-income children and families in Falls Church, offering Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the latter providing specialized care for local infants, toddlers and pregnant women.

The private, non-profit organization will expand from two classrooms to eight, creating 21 new jobs for teachers, family support staff and in-home visitors. Each classroom currently serves eight children on average, meaning almost 50 new children can now be accepted into the program off a lengthy waiting list.

The stimulus package enacted by Congress in February 2009 called for $90.9 billion to be spent on education. Of that amount, $2.1 billion was intended for Head Start programs, those funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provided comprehensive services to low-income families.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross praised Higher Horizons’ already-strong governing board, which she believes would have eventually made the expansion possible.

“I’ve been very impressed with the board’s private fundraising efforts, which has cushioned [Higher Horizons] and given it the opportunity to expand. At the same time, this was a huge shot in the arm for them,” Gross told the News-Press, adding that the acquired funds means helping more families in need.

Services offered by Higher Horizons include transportation, early childhood education and development for infants through preschool-aged children, health services and more.

The center’s executive director, Mary Ann Cornish, said she and her staff are still in the planning stages for expansion, currently negotiating space and hiring. However, increased home-based services, including staff visits to families’ homes prenatal and postnatal education, will begin in April.

Cornish said an evident need in the community was motivation enough for the center to apply for the competitive grant last June. Gov. Tim Kaine announced the local center had been one of the selected recipients four months later.

“It seemed like a long grant review period. Since funds were competitive, we didn’t know what the outcome would be. We knew we had a strong track record in the community and were very excited about serving additional children,” said Cornish.

The extra $1,023,146 will “provide services to an additional 76 pregnant women,” according to a press release on Higher Horizons’ web site.

Gross said it’s clear that the public’s demand for services has increased by 30 to 50 percent in all areas of Fairfax County, including Falls Church.

“People who thought they were doing fine are suddenly faced with tough choices,” she added.

This is the first time Higher Horizons has received a direct grant of this magnitude, reaffirming its mission to help those in need.

“It let us know we could successfully compete,” said Cornish. “We could develop a grant and succeed, which says a lot about our organization.”

 

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