A loaf of bread, a box of food and a few children’s books made the week a bit easier for two Harris County Department of Education Head Start families in La Porte.
“This is going to help us out quite a bit,” said Diana Moore, mother of five. “My husband works at a warehouse and had his hours cut back due to social distancing.”
Layoffs or shortened work hours during COVID-19 add to already tight budgets for many families. Plus, the challenge of homeschooling multiple children contributes to the mental and physical stress load.
Moore juggles homeschooling her children who are 3, 4, 5, 14 and 16. To add to her worries, daughter Lilliana, 4, who is enrolled at the HCDE Head Start La Porte Center, was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.
Lilliana, a “super-shy” child, has made friends and has learned social skills in her Head Start class, says her mom. Those soft skills will help her as she starts public school next year. She has conquered her letters and phonics and can count to 30. She practices counting at home by dropping buttons into a jar.
Mother Jenifer Howard arrived at the Head Start La Porte Center with her four children to get the family’s “Because We Care” package. It is filled with staples like peanut butter, oatmeal, canned goods and bread. The mother waved as staff placed the box in her trunk and handed her books for her children. The food distribution was offered to approximately 70 families at the center, one of 15 to receive the “Because We Care” boxes.
Howard made a point to thank the teachers and staff for all they do for her children.
With her second child attending Head Start, she has witnessed how the program helped her son become “school ready.”
“The elementary teachers say they see a difference in the kids who go to Head Start and those who didn’t,” Howard said.
These days, the Howard family spends the school day divided with online learning for the older children and workbooks, chapter books and art projects for the younger.
As COVID-19 continues to keep Head Start families confined to their homes, they miss the personal contact and support from center managers, teachers and family service providers. Head Start staff miss their families just as much.
“We look forward to these food and book distributions at our centers because we get to check in on our families,” said Venetia Peacock, senior director for HCDE Head Start. “Even if it’s a faraway wave because of social distancing, the connections mean something to us.
“We are family, and we are very happy to connect with these care packages.”
HCDE Head Start and Early Head Start are no-cost, federally funded programs that prepare children from 6 weeks to 5 years old for success in school. Programs support and promote parent participation in order to build stronger families. Low-income families or families of children with special needs benefit from services. HCDE Head Start serves families residing in east and northeast Harris County, providing 15 area centers and five Early Head Start partnerships for approximately 1,350 children and their families.
Head Start is actively recruiting students for the 2020-2021 school year. For more information, go to www.hcde-texas.org/Head-Start.