Education for low-income children in Des Moines is receiving more than $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Drake University will receive the funding, and in turn will funnel it to eight childcare centers around Des Moines for Early Head Start programming. Early Head Start provides education, health and parent support services to children up to age 3, and their families.
Director for Drake University Head Start Judy Russell says birth to 3 is an incredibly important developmental period. She likens the brains of young children to "sponges."
"By the age of 3, 80 percent of the brain is already developed" says Russell. "So that’s when...we need to put our money in child development and child education."
Russell says childcare centers are notorious for low pay, which causes frequent turnover. Therefore, some of the funding will go towards professional development and teacher pay.
"In order for children to establish those relationships and secure attachments, especially from birth to 3 years of age, they really need to have a consistent, nurturing environment," says Russell. "Which...means that you would want the same staff working with those children for a significant amount of time, and a staff that is educated so that they know what children need."
Additionally, parent education for low income families will also benefit from the grant. Russell says the center will hire infant and child development specialists who will work with parents.