Reyna Terrell, a 22-year-old single mother,
considers herself "one of the lucky ones." At 19 when
she found out that she was pregnant with her daughter,
she was determined to not become a stereotypical young
"I was scared I would be like one of my friends;
struggling, living paycheck to paycheck, but I got so
lucky," said Terrell, of West Rogers Park.
She enrolled her daughter, Isabel Sofia, who will
be two next month, in daycare at the Howard Area
Community Center in Rogers Park and a year later,
began working there.
Terrell is among a number of young mothers who
stand to benefit from a spending bill passed by
Congress last week that increases the early-childhood
education budget by more than $1 billion to $8.6 billion.
The measure will augment programs such as Head Start and
other preschool groups that cater to children from
Studies by researchers at the Frank Porter Graham
Child Development Institute at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill found that children are
already behind if they come from low-income households. But
early-childhood education for kids between birth and 5 years
old benefit both socially and emotionally, researchers
Melinda Berry, a family support supervisor at
Educare Chicago, a South Side school for at-risk
infants and toddlers at the center of the University of
North Carolina study, said fewer resources and less time and
energy are some of the barriers she sees when working
However, she said once a child is enrolled in
preschool programs, parents quickly use each other as
resources in addition to the services provided through
their day care program.
"It becomes more about [the parents] talking about
their child's development rather than just us teaching
them," said Berry, who is one of the Head Start
experts at the school. "Social networking is a big resource
that people wouldn't think they would get."
But Terrell said opportunities like hers do not
reach every single parent trying to provide for his or
her child. She said many of her friends work one or
two jobs and pass their children off to "random people" because
they do not have the same support as she
Lupe Narvaez, coordinator of the family literacy
program at the Howard Area Community Center, said what
it is most difficult for parents is making that
initial "connection with child care," especially when
searching for jobs or education opportunities while
Narvaez manages the GED prep and ESL classes at the
center. She said that unless parents are employed or
enrolled in school, they cannot apply for programs
like the Child Care Assistance Program to fund the enrollment
of their child in Illinois daycare centers other than
"You can't have child care if you are looking for a
job," she said.
Even with increased funding for early-childhood
programs, Narvaez added that there is still no
guarantee the over-crowded Head Start classrooms will have
a space for their children. The UNC study found that only 42
percent of children in low-income families are
enrolled in Head Start.
The Jan. 14 budget increase is "just a drop in the
bucket for what's needed," said Jelene Britten,
marketing and media manager at Ounce of Prevention
Fund, an Illinois based research and advocacy center for
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