Head Start now enrolling

Meets at Forest Hills United Methodist Church

Head Start, a federally funded child development program for low-income children, is accepting applications for September enrollment. The free program serves children from birth to age 5.

Families can sign up for the school-year schedule (September through May) or the whole year (September through August). The part-year program meets four half-days per week, Monday through Thursday. The full-year program meets 6.5 hours per day, Monday through Friday. A home-based program is also available.

Head Start focuses on the child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. It includes free meals, field trips and special events, plus health, mental health and social services.

To be accepted, families must meet income guidelines or other criteria. Families on County Assistance, Supplemental Social Security and Foster Children are eligible.

Ninety percent of Head Start parents must meet income guidelines. The remaining 10 percent can be over the income limit if, for example, they are single and attending school. Ten percent of the slots are held for special needs children.

Head Start began in 1965, during the Johnson administration, to help prepare disadvantaged preschool children for kindergarten.

It now operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories, helping more than a million children each year with cognitive, social, and emotional development.

In the northern half of Washington County, Head Start is administered through the Anoka County Community Action Program. About 600 children in this area are served in all of Anoka County and the northern half of Washington County.

The annual budget for this area is about $4 million. Most of the money, 85 percent, comes from the federal government. Over 10 percent is from the state, and United Way provides local funds.

Head Start has been affected by sequestrian, automatic spending cuts in the federal budget. According to Patty Warneke, recruitment and enrollment coordinator for Anoka/Washington County Head Start, both children and staff were cut in the 2012-2013 school year when federal funding was reduced by $205,000. A similar reduction will occur in the 2013-2014 school year.

In Forest Lake the program is held at Forest Hills United Methodist Church, 1790 SE. 11th St.

A total of 18 children meet there, taught by three staff members: a head teacher, assistant teacher and aide.

A free mini-bus transports children within the city of Forest Lake, or parents provide transportation.

To enroll, call 763-783-4300 or visit www.accap.org/head_start.asp.