Early Learning Program Benefits Children and Parents
CCS Early Learning is a community-based, nonprofit organization that has been delivering high quality early child development programs in Southcentral Alaska since 1971. The program initially served children in Chugiak/Eagle River, later expanding to the Mat-Su Valley. Using the Head Start model of early childhood education, CCS strives to provide young children and their families with a superior learning environment that is staffed by quality early childhood educators. Today, CCS Head Start program serves 240 children ages 3 – 5 years in Chugiak, Meadow Lakes, Wasilla and Palmer. The program is free to children from families who meet low-income criteria, to foster children, and to children with a diagnosed special need.
“We offer a comprehensive program that addresses the children, as well as their parents,” says Mark Lackey, CCS Early Learning’s executive director. “Roughly two-thirds of our time and financial resources are spent on the child. The remaining one-third is spent working with parents—helping them establish family goals, identify strengths and necessary services and supports.”
Through family partnerships, parents have the opportunity to enhance their parenting skills, knowledge and understanding of the developmental needs of their children, to participate in medical, dental, nutrition, and mental health education programs, and to access family literacy services.
“The parent investment is critical,” says Lackey. “We may see the child for one or two years, whereas the parents are there for the long-haul—at least another 15 years.”
Head Start’s primary goals are social competence and school readiness. The curriculum and activities cover eight key areas: language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, and physical health and development. Program hours are from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, and for the most part, holidays and breaks mirror the local school district’s calendar.
Parents are encouraged to become involved in all aspects of Head Start program. They can observe their children in the classroom and help plan their learning experiences. Staff and parents, together with an on-site mental health consultant, identify and design interventions that promote children’s mental wellness, provide assistance for children with atypical behaviors, and support parents’ participation in any interventions.
For more on CCS Early Learning, visit www.ccsalaska.org or call (907) 745-4040.