New Initiative Offers Resources for Expectant Parents and Young Children
From quality child care and prenatal classes to parenting education and food and nutrition services, a new federally funded initiative aims to provide families in DeKalb County with access to a wide range of support services so local children receive a great start in life.
Launched recently by First Lady Sandra Deal and Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Great Start Georgia isdesigned to ensure that communities are able to meet the needs of expectant parents and children birth to age five and their families. Administered by the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the system is in partnership with the state Department of Public Health and provides a framework of support for at-risk families before and after the birth of a child. A toll-free Information & Referral Center featuring professionally-trained staff offers connections to relevant local resources and information.
DeKalb is one of seven counties statewide that has received federal funding to include home visiting in their Great Start Georgia system, providing an opportunity to better coordinate community services and resources focused on early childhood health and development. For example, local families may be eligible for concentrated or long-term services including school readiness, positive parenting, workforce training and development, adult literacy and information on child development. Additionally, Great Start Georgia can provide resources that address a significant or urgent concern such as domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse in the home, homelessness, or services that deal with specific developmental disabilities and acute medical diseases.
Research shows that the experiences a child has prior to entering kindergarten affect how the brain develops and lay the foundation for success in school and life. According to the Department of Public Health, more than 130,000 babies were born in Georgia in 2011. Nearly 47,000 were identified as “at risk” for needing medical and/or developmental services. By providing communities with a coordinated system for reaching out to all new and expectant families, and offering needed supports and services, Great Start Georgia has the potential to significantly improve the well-being of local children and families and provide them with a “great start” in life. The early years really do last a lifetime.
For more information, visit www.greatstartgeorgia.org or call the Information & Referral Center at 1-855-707-8277.