Terrie’s Blog


A Step Closer to Kindergarten

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already May. On May 18th we’ll be saying “goodbye” to some of the preschoolers enrolled in our Part Day/Part Year program option as they take a summer break before heading to kindergarten in the fall. I’m so proud that we were given the opportunity to be a part of these children’s lives. I’m  proud to know that they are headed to kindergarten with the tools they need to be socially and academically successful. I’m proud to have worked with dedicated parents serving on Policy Council this year, and I’m proud to know that so many families have been empowered to be successful this year. I’m proud of our many staff members – Teachers, Family Support Advocates, Family Educators, and the Administrative teams – who all bring tireless passion to our work. I’m proud of our greater community that came together in many ways to support Growing Futures and children and families this year. So while the school year draws to a close, I will not be sad to see so many of the sweet, smiling faces that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing head out the door. I will think instead of how much they’ve grown in their time here, and how proud I am that we’ve made a positive difference in their lives. -Terrie...

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End Child Abuse

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KC STAR Letter to the Editor Staff members from Growing Futures Early Education Center wear blue on April 8, 2016 for Wear Blue Day for Child Abuse Prevention Sunday – April 3, 2016 Many community leaders and organizations that serve children across Johnson County, the Kansas City area and our nation will join forces this month to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Abuse knows no geographic or socioeconomic boundaries. It can happen to anyone. However, children who live in families challenged by poverty are at greater risk of experiencing abuse and neglect, development and learning delays, future incarceration, and poorer physical and mental health outcomes. In 2014, 37,000 people were living in poverty in Johnson County, and more than 12,000 of those were children. As an organization, Growing Futures works to provide children in poverty with high-quality early learning opportunities and to provide its families with access to comprehensive family-support services that can ameliorate the many risk factors associated with living in poverty. As a Head Start program serving Johnson County families since 1965, Growing Futures is proud to join the many voices in our region that take April to recognize that we all have a part to play in preventing child abuse. Let’s keep our children healthy and safe so they have the opportunity for success in school and in life. -Terrie April...

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Early Literacy

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The basis for learning comes from having strong literacy skills. This is why it is important to work on developing literacy and learning skills at an early age. One way to accomplish this is by reading to children at home, as parents are their child’s first teachers. This provides children with the basic early literacy skills that prepare them to learn to read and write. Here at Growing Futures, we are always finding ways to improve learning and literacy skills for the children that attend our program. One of the ways we accomplish this is with the help of our fantastic community volunteers. Earlier this month, the Johnson County Young Matrons hosted an on-site Dr. Seuss event for the children enrolled in our program. It was a day full of entertainment and learning. As Dr. Seuss books were read aloud, simple questions and predictions were asked of the children. There were also multiple activity stations – from working as a team and communicating verbally to build towers with foam blocks, to working on fine motor skills by using a fishing pole with a magnet to catch fish. Fun and hands-on learning was had by all! Another great resource that helps us develop and increase family literacy activities is the Johnson County Library! We have a strong partnership with the Johnson County Library that includes embedded librarians, Mr. Bradley and Ms. Dorian, who are here monthly enhancing our literacy efforts. Be sure to stop by a location near you to get a library card to continue reading at home – and also attend on-site events. The Library’s website has great information on its Birth to Six Program – which features six skills by six years: https://www.jocolibrary.org/birth-to-six. -Terrie March...

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Importance of Social Emotional Development for Preschoolers

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At Growing Futures, we understand the value and importance of nurturing social and emotional development of pre-kindergartners. We know that children’s emotional well-being during their early years, has a powerful impact on their social relationships throughout the rest of their lives. Children who are in preschool (ages 3-5) are learning to talk about their feelings, and the feelings of others. But social and emotional development involves more than just expressing ones feelings and emotions. It includes learning to take turns, becoming independent, following routines, interacting more with peers, controlling emotions, engaging in meaningful relationships with others, and developing a positive self-image. By learning these important skills, children have the opportunity for better participation in school, at home, and throughout their lives. Daily interactions provide preschoolers with multiple opportunities to continuously improve and grow in their social and emotional development. Building relationships with others: Whether it is during work time, center time, outdoor time, etc., our preschoolers are constantly using their words and sentences to express themselves, share toys, and solve problems. Social and emotional development gives children a better understanding of their feelings, and their peers’ feelings (they are able to express them in a healthy manner) all while creating conflict resolutions with guidance from their teachers. Preschoolers at Growing Futures also have the opportunity to build relationships with adults by interacting with and learning from volunteers in their classrooms. Creating self-awareness: As children grow, their ability to control their bodies and take turns during various activities throughout the day also improves. For example, sitting still during circle time, standing quietly and walking in line when going to and from the restroom or outside for outdoor time. Regulating and controlling emotions: Help and practice is still needed with developing appropriate behaviors, but preschoolers are constantly learning new ways to manage their emotions to match the situation and environment. For example, instead of yelling or crying at a peer when interacting with each other, they may say “I’m upset because…” or “You hurt my feelings because…”. Also, they may get excited and hug a teacher or volunteer when they come into the classroom because they are happy they are there. Gaining independence: By having predictable daily routines and activities at school (and at home), preschoolers are able to gain healthy independence. One daily example of this is when they eat their breakfast, lunch and/ or snack here. We serve the meals here family style, so the children are able to use and develop their fine motor skills to serve and feed themselves, and clean up after themselves as well. Independence is also gained by playing independently, and daily tooth brushing, among many other tasks. We look forward to helping the children in our program with their social and emotional development as we prepare them for future success. -Terrie February...

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High Costs Make Child Care Unaffordable for Many Low-income Families.

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Finding affordable, high-quality, child care is both a necessity and a barrier to employment for most families. It’s even more out of reach when you are a family living at 100% of the federal poverty level – which for a family of three is a meager $20,160 a year. However, families don’t stop being in need when they get $1, $100, or $1,000 above the federally defined poverty threshold. Even at 200% of the established poverty threshold, a family of three earns no more than $40,180 a year, and according to the United Community Services or Johnson County, a truly livable wage for a family of three in Johnson County is $48,686. With nearly 37,000 Johnson County residents living below the federal poverty level, the cost for quality child care is increasingly difficult for these families and a financial burden. In Johnson County, the price of full day care at a local child care center can cost, on average, $13,600 for an infant for one year – which is 67.6% of a family’s income for those living at the federal poverty level. The average price of full day care for a toddler at a local child care center for one year is $11,200 – 55.7% of a family’s income for those living at the federal poverty level. With over half of a family’s income going towards childcare alone, it does not leave much, if anything, to help cover the additional daily living expenses that we all face, such as housing/rent, food, transportation needs, medical bills, etc. Unfortunately, we also know that without access to quality early education, children from low-income families are more likely than their peers to lack the key resources needed for a good start on the school readiness path. They are behind even before arriving at preschool. That is why everything that we do at Growing Futures is crucial to making sure that the low-income children in our community’s educational, developmental, and nutritional needs are met. Yet Growing Futures does so much more, we focus on the whole family. By providing services for health, nutrition, social services, mental health, as well as parent engagement and education opportunities, we help empower the families that we serve as they journey towards self-sufficiency. We’ve come a long way since 1965, but there is still work to be done. We look forward to the next 50 years of ensuring that all children have the right start in life, and with your help, we know we will succeed. -Terrie January 2016 *Statistics pulled from the United Community Services 2014 Johnson County Poverty Numbers released 2015 and 2016 Poverty Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services released January...

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Celebrating the Season

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Healthy children are ready to learn.

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Food insecurity is a problem that many of our families may face this year. What is food insecurity? According to Feeding America, “food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.” Here at Growing Futures, we know that children who are hungry, are not prepared to learn. That is why daily meal service is a vital part of our program. Last school year we served over 34,697 meals – including breakfast, lunch, and a healthy snack. There are times during the year though, that Growing Futures is not in session – our upcoming Thanksgiving break is one of these times. This year, the children and families we serve will have additional food assistance for the extra days that their children are at home, thanks to the generosity of community donors like Deloitte and Vineyard Church of Overland Park. With the holiday’s right around the corner,  we are thankful for their continued support of our program and those we serve, as well as for providing additional sources of food security this holiday season – an important resource as we continue to empower families on their path to self-sufficiency. If you are interested in hosting or organizing a collection drive to support our program, please contact us.  Terrie November...

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Growing Futures celebrated Head Start Awareness Month with a Guest Reader Event on Tuesday, October 13.

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Head Start Awareness Month

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On October 22, 1982, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October to be Head Start Awareness Month. More than thirty years later, his words still ring true. “Perhaps the most significant factor in the success of Head Start has been the involvement of parents, volunteers, and the community. Their commitment and the services provided by dedicated Head Start staff have been instrumental in creating a quality program that truly provides young children with a head start in life.” – Ronald Reagan Did you know? Nearly 37,000 Johnson County residents live below the federal poverty level of which 12,000 are children (United Community Services 2014 Johnson County Poverty Numbers released 2015) Living at 100% of the federal poverty level means that a family of three is living off of a meager $20,090 For fifty years, Growing Futures has been strengthening and supporting children and families right here in Johnson County by focusing on the whole family. Currently, Growing Futures is serving more than 200 low-income children (birth to 5), their families, and expectant mothers – providing services for health, nutrition, social services, mental health, and opportunities for parent education and involvement. Everything we do is geared toward empowering families on their path to self-sufficiency. It’s a proven fact – Head Start Works. 90% of a child’s brain development occurs before age 5. By making early childhood education available to children, we take advantage of a crucial period of their development. Studies show that high-quality early childhood programs are the best way to support improved academic outcomes in K-12 education. Children who attend early childhood programs are far more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn, read at grade level by third grade, and graduate from high school and even college. Early childhood education is a proven way to ensure children will succeed academically and help prevent crime and violence. Studies demonstrate Early Head Start and Head Start improve the health of the children and families served. Decades of research proves society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start children, including savings on unemployment and child welfare. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to our supportive community partners, friends, volunteers, and Growing Futures’ staff for continuing to make a difference right here in our community. Without you, providing a “head start” to thousands of children and their families over the years would be impossible. I ask you to please join us this month, as we celebrate Head Start! 9/28-10/4 – Ten Thousand Villages 10/1-10/31 – Lakeshore Learning Store Terrie October...

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September 16 is National Play Doh® Day!

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The brand of play dough that we have come to love, known as Play-Doh®, was originally manufactured as wallpaper cleaner in the 1930’s and in the 1950’s was re-worked and marketed to be the modeling compound that it is known for today. Not only is working with play dough fun, but children are able to develop their social, emotional, physical, communication, and cognitive skills at the same time. Play dough is a powerful activity and allows for children to explore and experiment in various ways while building a solid foundation for future learning. Muscle Development: When play dough is pulled, rolled, and squeezed it helps strengthen and develop muscles in children’s fingers, increasing their fine motor coordination skills. Sensory Seeking: Play dough can be very stimulating and engaging for a child who seeks tactile experiences. The variety of colors, tools and imaginary themes that play dough offers, opens up countless ideas for a sensory seeking child. Social and Emotional Development: Play dough’s texture has a unique calming effect on children as it is manipulated by their fingers. It can be a healthy outlet for children to express their feelings as well. Play dough also stimulates a child’s imaginative and interactive play skills as there are limitless ways to play, design, and create with play dough. While there are a lot of Play-Doh® toys on the market, there are many low or no cost tools that you can find around your own home that can be used with play dough. Use objects found in nature or around your house such as buttons, pebbles, or drinking straws, and practice pushing or poking these objects into the play dough. Roll the dough between your hands or on the table and you can make play dough snakes. Play pretend kitchen and make pizzas or cookies by rolling a ball of dough and then squishing it flat on the table. Use cookie cutters to make different shapes. Homemade play dough is a great alternative to store bought. Here is a recipe from Suzi’s Crafts that we like to make here at Growing Futures. Ingredients for Kool-Aid Playdough 1-2 packets Kool-Aid 1 cup flour 1/2 cup salt 2 tablespoons cream of tartar 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 cup boiling water Directions: In a large bowl add all dry ingredients and mix well (salt, flour, cream of tartar, Kool-Aid). Add the oil and boiling water to the mixture and mix this with a large spoon until it becomes very firm. It should be cool enough to handle after a few minutes of stirring. Lay out some wax paper and flour for the last step. Use your hands and roll it in some more flour if it feels too sticky. The Kool-Aid makes the playdough recipe smell really good (like taffy) but it probably doesn’t taste very good. Since it has salt in the recipe, be sure to wash hands and use some lotion to prevent dryness. It will last for a long time if refrigerated in a plastic bag. Enjoy! Terrie September...

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