Nov 8, 2003 Queen Louise Home for Children hosted an open house recently to mark the official opening of its new Early Head Start Program. The effort seeks to improve the quality of life for infants, toddlers, expectant mothers and their families.
EHS has been in operation since September of 2003 and is making a positive difference in the lives of 12 expectant mothers and 12 infants and toddlers from St. Croix.
QLH has been serving the residents of island since being founded in 1904. The facility is best-known as being the only residential foster-care home in the Virgin Islands, providing temporary placement in a family setting to abused and neglected children.
According to Director Paula Powell, as the facility approaches its 100th anniversary, the home saw a need to expand and improve its services to meet the growing needs of low-income families in the community.
"The need for resident care of infants and toddlers was decreasing; it was time to do outreach and expand into the community," Powell said. The facility applied for and received an Early Head Start grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. "This program will assist in building a foundation for children that will foster success for their future," Powell said. "To do that, you have to begin at the beginning",
Lutheran Social Services is a non-profit incorporated agency administering to the needs of abused children, low-income seniors and the differently abled of all ages. LSS programs include The Queen Louise Home for Children; The Ginger Thomas Residence, a group home for adults with developmental disabilities; Lutheran Disaster Response; and seven subsidized apartments for physically and/or mentally disabled adults capable of independent living. "With this new program we are trying to address the needs of the client and simultaneously create a positive and lasting impact on the community," Chris Finch, executive director of LSS, said.
To qualify for the program, a client must meet federal guidelines concerning age and income. A staff of 20 professionals offers the mothers counseling, pre-natal and post-natal services, transportation to and from doctor appointments as well as transportation to and from the childcare center at QLH.
Recognizing that brain development between birth and three years is the most critical in a child's life, teachers concentrate on the children's social, cognitive, language and emotional development. Parents are encouraged to come by the center during the day to spend time in the classroom with the children. Daycare hours are 7:30 to 5:00 p.m.
The program also reaches out into the home setting. "Family care workers," as the EHS social workers are called, perform home visits to strengthen family relationships and promote a healthy family environment.
Suzanne Bell, EHS program coordinator, has high praise for the staff. "They have remarkable compassion and dedication to their job," she said. "They are making an incredible difference to the lives of these children and families."
Luther Edwards, LSS board president, appealed for assistance from the community. "The federal grant we are working under (of $600,000) requires a community match of 20 percent," he said. "That equals $120,000 of in-kind contributions." Edwards called for the community to offer its services in the way of manual labor, clerical help, donation of goods and other services and, of course, cash donations.
For more information and to make contributions to EHS, phone 304-772-4099.
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