The Danville and Urbana school districts, the Center for Children's Services in Danville and the Developmental Services Center in Champaign are a few of the local entities that have won state funding, aimed at helping at-risk infants and toddlers get a leg up on their education and in life.
Illinois State Board of Education officials announced Monday that they are disbursing nearly $46 million in Prevention Initiative Program funds to 283 programs that support at-risk families with infants to 3-year-olds.
The State Board of Education also allocated the Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund with a $5 million grant to provide statewide technical assistance and training to these programs over a five-year period.
"Thanks to these funds, hundreds of struggling families receive support services to help ensure their children get off to a good start in life," State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico said in a news release. "Providing families with early support and services can make a critical difference in a child's ability to later learn and thrive in the classroom."
Established in 1988, Prevention Initiative Program funding provides voluntary coordinated services for at-risk infants and toddlers and their families. They are funded through the state's Early Childhood Block Grant that primarily funds preschool programs for 3- to 5-year-olds.
The program offers continuous, intensive and research-based child-development and family support services for expecting parents and families with children, birth to 3 years old, to help them build a strong foundation for learning.
During the past year, more than 29,000 children and their families received services through Prevention Initiative programs, according to a state board spokeswoman.
This year, 173 suburban and downstate programs applied for funding, she said. She added 158 were chosen during a competitive application and review process that included internal state board and external early childhood experts.
The Danville school district won 100 percent of the amount it applied for, and will be able to expand its Birth to 3 program to serve about 24 children and their families, said Diane Hampel, the district's educational support programs director. She said that's twice as many children that have been served in recent years.
Under Danville's program, parent-educator Rosemary Strebin helps develop family service plans for each family. She also works directly with the children and teaches parents about developmentally appropriate activities that they can do with their child on a weekly or biweekly basis, depending on the need.
In addition, she hosts play groups for families at the Danville Public Library on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Unlike in the past, Hampel said, the program will be held year-round. Strebin "will continue to make home visits and host play groups in the summer," she said. "We don't want to lose track of the families, which can happen over those summer months."
Here are the other local entities and their grant amounts: