The 's "Family Resource Center" helps a number of children and their families get the best start the young students can on their path to a good education.
But while the center assists a number of families throughout , many residents are unaware of the variety of programs it offers — or even that the center itself is part of the school district and available to help assist families who may require the services of one or more of its programs.
In hopes of raising awareness about its work, center staff members presented a comprehensive review of the facility's purpose and its programming during Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.
And so, for those who interested in learning more, East Haven Patch has put together an overview of highlights from the talk, as well as the PowerPoint presentation itself — which is also posted in the gallery that accompanies this article.
"I'm excited to pass on this presentation so everybody can know what we do here," Mary Varunes, the East Haven center's director, told school board members Tuesday.
There are dozens of Family Resource Centers throughout the state of Connecticut. The statewide program, which is managed by the Connecticut Department of Education, was created and authorized through state statute.
In general, the state education department says the centers serve to provide access to early childhood and family support services in order to "foster the optimal development of children and families."
To achieve their goal, each of the centers offer parent education and training, family support, preschool and school-age child care, teen pregnancy prevention (positive youth development services), and family day-care provider training.
A document providing an over of the statewide program has been posted in the gallery.
East Haven's Center
East Haven's Family Resource Center was founded at in 1998. Its programming is funded through two state grants: "The Family Resource" and "School Readiness."
Eligibility for the center's programs is determined by family income and need. And tuition is set through a sliding scale.
The center's stated goal is "to provide the best possible start for children and families. We provide a common ground for families to enhance self-esteem, encourage growth, and allow family members to reach their full potential."
The East Haven center's main programming components include:
- Full Day Preschool
- Families in Training/Learn and Play Groups
- Resource and Referral
- Adult Education Support/English Language Learners
- Support and Training for Child Care Providers
- Positive Youth Development
- School Age Child Care
The preschool is a full time curriculum-based program. Classroom capacity is 15 students per 3- and 4-year-old classrooms. All staff members are certified and hold a degree in early childhood education.
Families in Training
The Families in Training program is designed to offer developmental information and support to all parents of infants and young children. The program is managed by a certified Parent Educator.
Center staff said the goal of the program is to "help parents give their child the best possible start in life."
Marissa Velazquez, the center's parent resource educator, told school board members she has seen a marked uptick in the need for the program's services over the last couple of year, primarily due to the economic downtown.
"Its affecting the children and the parents," she said of the difficult economy.
Last year the school board approved shifting Velazquez's position from part time up to full time. Because of this, Velazquez said she has gone from working with 55 families to some 120 — and there continues to be a growing waiting list.
The parent educator added that right now the program primarily serves families in the south end of East Haven. But, if additional funds became available, Valasquez said they would like to expand the program into the north end of town, too.
Resource and Referral
The Family Resource Center provides information to families on specific areas of interest, including:
- Daycare Listings/Housing/Food and Clothing
- Social Services/Counseling
- Collaboration with East Haven Board of Education
The majority of referrals are made over the phone by center staff.
Early Childhood Collaborative
The collaborative works together with parents, early childcare providers, public schools, local government and community agencies in an effort to ensure that from children have the opportunity to participate in "meaningful, high quality early childhood experiences," according to center staff.
The collaborative also hosts its own website, EastHavenKids.org, which is loaded with a lot of information, links and upcoming events.
The adult education program provides opportunities for parents to improve their educational levels, while also encouraging literacy activities between parents and children.
The East Haven center also offers classes for the English language learners.
Gayle Turcio-Carter, one of the school district's elementary social workers, explained that "Mutt-i-grees" is a research-based curriculum that seeks to harnass "the many positive effects of dog-human interactions."
"The presence of a dog invokes positive emotions, laughter, and excitement in humans," Turcio-Carter told school board members Tuesday. "Dogs also increase oxytocin, a bonding hormone that lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and stress in humans who interact with them."
She added that through the program, East Haven resource center students partnered with East Haven Animal Shelter staff to create a public service announcement promoting the adoption of shelter animals. The video received an honorable mention in a nationwide contest.
Other program components offered by East Haven's Family Resource Center include:
- Support & Training for Daycare Providers
- Positive Youth Development
For more information about East Haven's Family Resource Center, call Mary Varunes, 203–468–3898 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.