Sunday, May 14, 2000

Grant to aid poor tots

Money will pay for nurses, others

By Janet C. Wetzel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal grant that will allow Butler County to hire 16 new public health nurses, and other professionals, should ultimately mean thousands of children get a better start in life.

        Four of those nurses will be for Middletown. The funding will allow the city's public health nurse, who now works 30 hours, to go to a full-time schedule, said Ron Murray, health commissioner.

        The estimated $2 million federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grant, which is administered through the Ohio and Butler County departments of human services, will be used to hire the nurses for the Butler County Early Start program, said Jaylene Schaefer, program director.

        “We aren't even beginning to serve all the new moms and their babies in this county,” Mrs. Schaefer said. “Everybody, when they have a baby, needs some support. If they can't get it from their family or from their community, we want Early Start to provide it.”

Many more served
        The 24 new staff members that will be hired for Early Start by about July 1 will allow the county to serve more than 1,000 children at a time, compared with about 150 being served at once now, Mrs. Schaefer said.

        The main benefit of the research-based prevention program, which provides home-visitation service for mothers and their children up to age 3, is to “improve child outcomes,” with a major focus on child development and parent-child bonding, Mrs. Schaefer said.

        “In order to do that, we work with the whole family on whatever issues or problems they may have,” ranging from helping the mother with housing, training, schooling or other needs to help the children.

        About 300 families, including nearly 100 in Middletown, have been served since the program started in 1998.

        There are income eligibility requirements for Early Start, but even parents who earn up to 300 percent of the poverty level qualify.

Other programs
        About 30 children are now served in Middletown, Mr. Murray said.

        Mrs. Schaefer said Early Start is linking with other services in the county that are not income-dependent, such as Early Intervention and Welcome Home. The Middletown Area United Way is contributing about $50,000 to help with expansion of Early Start.


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