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Early Learning Initiative Aims To Help At-Risk Children, Pinellas County

The Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB) has announced a program that will help at-risk youth in Pinellas County. The JWB Quality Early Learning initiative is in the early stages of development, and is looking for partners to serve as quality providers of childcare and education to children ages 2 months to five years.

“We have been funding childcare for many years, however, we haven’t been seeing the results we would like for preparing children for school,” says Matt Spence, senior program consultant at the JWB. “Our goal with this program is to move from a childcare model to a learning model.”

According to Spence, the JWB is focused on serving five priority areas in the county. Those areas include, south St. Pete (zip codes 33705, 33711 and 33712), North Greenwood in Clearwater (33755, 33756), the High Point area (33760), east Tarpon Springs (34689) and the unincorporated area of Lealman (33709, 33713,33714, 33781).

Karen Sierra, also a senior program consultant at the JWB says that potential clients will be identified as early as possible, even before birth.

“Our nurse program that works with moms and moms-to-be, as well as the Healthy Start program in Pinellas will be partners in helping identify families that have at-risk factors that we look for.”

Spence says that the next step in the process is finding quality providers who can serve these at-risk children. Providers can submit a letter of interest via the JWB website.

“We are not just looking for one provider necessarily,” Spence says. “If there is an organization out of state that wants to come in and partner with us, or a nonprofit group in another part of Florida, we are open to considering them and splitting up the partnership. We have the funding; we just need quality partners to provide the services.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Matt Spence and Karen Sierra, JWB
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