Studies have shown that every dollar spent on early childhood education and services results in a savings of $7 to $14 later in life – in such areas as juvenile justice, incarceration, social services and school drop-outs. That is a reason to rejoice in the $1.7 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (stimulus) funds awarded to the Childcare Network of Evanston’s Early Head Start programs. The money comes at a particularly crucial time, since more children are at risk in the current economic slowdown.

The money will fund 90 new Early Head Start slots for children from birth to age 3 and their families through CNE and its partners, Infant Welfare Society, the School District 65 Family Center and Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Center Children’s Center in Skokie.

Early Head Start strengthens families, promoting the health and development of children along with encouraging self-sufficiency in the family.

The expansion to Skokie and other communities north and west of here provides a way for CNE to follow clients who can no longer afford to live in Evanston and find themselves in communities that lack Early Head Start and other services, said CNE executive director Martha Arntson. Pockets of poverty exist not only here and in Skokie, Ms. Artnson said, but also in Morton Grove, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Northfield, Northbrook and Winnetka – where CNE also hopes to expand.

This grant will help ensure that vulnerable families will still be able to receive services such as home visits even when they have lost their jobs and likely their place in Early Head Start.

This is a two-year grant, extending from December 2009 through September 2011. The federal government requires a 20 percent match for these funds, and CNE has begun to address that requirement.

Children deprived of early opportunities to learn enter kindergarten already behind their peers. Early Head Start helps prepare them for the adventures our schools can offer.