Good news from the Children’s Center

Published 8:34 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The announcement that The Children’s Center will become the provider of Head Start services in Suffolk and Western Tidewater is good news for the community.

Head Start is designed to help promote school readiness for children age 3 to 5 who come from low-income families. The program helps provide educational, health, nutritional and social services for the child, while engaging the parent in their child’s educational and wellness needs.

Studies show the long-term impacts on children enrolled in the program are significant. Head Start graduates tend to have higher test scores, a higher high school graduation rate and are more likely to attend college. Because of required health screenings, they are likely to lead healthier lifestyles. They are also less likely to be charged with crimes later in life.

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The benefits and results of the Head Start program are important and impressive.

The news that decisions regarding administration of the program for local children will be made by an agency that knows its community can only mean even better outcomes are ahead.

Many students begin their academic careers already years behind in basic developmental readiness, as they come from families who can’t, or won’t, place appropriate focus on the child’s learning needs. Unfortunately, many of these children never catch up. The effects are devastating to both the children and the community, as evidenced by the city’s school performance relative to many other Virginia communities.

Children from economically challenged backgrounds also tend not to learn the importance of sound nutrition and health maintenance. Suffolk’s twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes are evidence of what that lack of knowledge means in the long run.

The Children’s Center and other such organizations are leading the charge to reach children whose odds for success, if left to fend for themselves, are long at best. The work they do impacts the overall wellness — economic and otherwise — of the entire community. Unfortunately, the need in the community is greater than these agencies alone can provide.

Community leaders simply lamenting the current state of affairs will not improve these agencies’ chances of having a positive impact on the children that need their support. It is essential that they also dig deep and find ways to assist them in their mission. All will benefit as a result.