Virginia ranked 29th in preschool access on a report released by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University May 22, 2017. Just 18 percent of 4-year-olds in Virginia were enrolled in state-funded preschool, a rate that has remained static for the past three years. That means that even less are enrolled of the remaining population are likely enrolled in private or partially subsidized centers. It goes without saying that infant and early childcare options are limited as well for low-income families. Research has shown that quality preschool programs offer long-term benefits, including better school performance, improved graduation rates and higher rates of employment and homeownership. The potential payoff is greatest for children from low-earning households.
There continues to be a widespread need for quality early childhood education in Portsmouth as well as across the region. All but one of the 13 elementary schools (which begin with kindergarten) in Portsmouth are Title 1 schools, meaning approximately 67% of students are eligible for the free lunch program. Most Ida Barbour family households are represented by a single mom between the age of 15-18 years old. 12.4% of children in Portsmouth are born to a single mom with less than a 12th grade education (the Norfolk statistic is 11.0% and other Hampton Roads cities are at a much lower percent).
Ida Barbour must continue to provide services to these children who are underserved in our region. We must also expand to take not only these children but the low-income working population represented by employees who work throughout our region, but especially those working in such facilities as Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
Additionally, in early 2018 we are beginning a new parenting and work readiness program for the parents of our children. Ida Barbour is creating parenting workshops with Portsmouth Social Services and workforce development partners which are designed for Ida Barbour parents, the parents of other low-income early childcare centers, and we will most likely be able to work with Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Portsmouth Naval Hospital to invite a small percentage of their employees’ children.
Parenting classes for teenagers and young adults offer the proper tools and education to our young so they can successfully care for their children. Our new Center will provide us the room we need to expand not only parenting workshops, but develop a workforce skills program partnering with area organizations.
We have a vision which is much needed in our region, and we hope you will assist us! Please send people to our website, invite us to present at your business or community organization.
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