A Call for “STEPUP” for Early Childhood Development

(Above) Tammy Pollitt, Brooke Davis and Caylynne Dobbles of Birth to Five Illinois speak at the STEP reunion.

Last Friday’s STEPUP meeting at Second Church of Christ in Danville focused on another specific challenge for Vermilion County. The topic was early childhood development and the readiness of children under six for school. Tammy Pollitt of Birth to Five Illinois mentioned that countywide there are more than 6,000 children under the age of six, but only about 1,200 are in some kind of early development or pre-K program. Niah Hamilton, who runs the countywide iGrow federal grant program, says that’s a worrying number.

AUDIO: Especially when we know that the earlier they are in a program, the better off they will be when they enter kindergarten, third and fifth grade. These things affect standardized testing. We just try to do it early, and I’m not really sure the community knows the earlier the better.

Vermilion County iGrow Coordinator Niah Hamilton addresses the Friday morning STEPUP meeting at Second Church of Christ in Danville.

Tammy Pollitt says a main part of Friday morning’s session was talking about why more families aren’t having their children in some type of early development program, and how to bring more options to County County. Vermilion.

AUDIO: What do we need in Vermilion County? Do we need more child care centres, more child care providers; Do we need more teachers? How come the kids don’t go to daycare/early childhood education. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

Hamilton says one thing that will help is the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation coming to Vermilion County and opening two FQHCs, Federal Qualified Health Centers, designed to serve everyone.

AUDIO: I hope that with the arrival of the Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation, we can expand our services; get more home visitors.

SIHF’s plans for Vermilion County were first announced a year ago. The clinic for all area students based at Danville High School is about to start with a newly hired health care provider in Janaury. Work on the FQHC for the public, planned on the site of the former St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, is expected to begin next year.

Families can be referred to iGrow, by themselves or anyone concerned, by calling 217-483-BABY (2229).

LEARN MORE ABOUT NIAH HAMILTON AND iGROW (Note: Hamilton’s office is in District 118, but she coordinates iGrow for all of Vermilion County.)

Niah Hamilton of District 118 guides very young children to iGrow programs

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