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Government Awards Pillars Oversight of Area Head Start Programs

Grant provides an estimated $25.1 million over five years to manage programming in 18 zip codes.Child and Family Development Center clients

While state budgeting decisions threaten the future of subsidized child care, early childhood learning programs funded by the federal government continue to receive dollars.

Head Start began in 1965 as a way to provide early childhood learning to low-income families. The federal office of Administration for Children and Families (which oversees Head Start and Early Head Start programs nationwide) provides funding to more than 1,600 grantees throughout the country that then oversee programming in their areas.

Pillars has operated a comprehensive child care, Head Start, and Early Head Start program since 1969. For the past 35 years, Pillars was a delegate under the oversight of another area grantee. After a rigorous application process that began in late 2013, Pillars was awarded federal grantee status in July 2015. The government’s decision to re-bid the management and oversight functions of these programs within Suburban Cook County means Pillars will now monitor and oversee Head Start and Early Head Start for 18 zip codes. Pillars has its own delegate, The Children’s Center of Cicero-Berwyn, that will assist in providing services.

“This is a big deal for us and for the communities we serve,” says Helen Stewart, vice president of clinical services and education at Pillars. “That the federal government has entrusted us with oversight and given us their vote of confidence really speaks to the quality of our organization.”

Through the reallocation of federal funds from the prior grantee to the current grantee, Pillars will receive an estimated $25.1 million over the next five years to run the program. The grant allows Pillars to serve children in these zip codes: 60402, 60415, 60453, 60454, 60455, 60456, 60457, 60458, 60459, 60465, 60480, 60482, 60501, 60525, 60534, 60805, 60402, and 60804.

The agency also received 12 new home-based Head Start slots, adding to the 102 slots they already had for Head Start at Pillars’ Child and Family Development Center in Hickory Hills, Ill.

“Every day that we come to work, we are excited about building a strong foundation for each child,” says Charron Garcia, associate vice president of the Child and Family Development Center. “Staff are thrilled to know that our hard work has been recognized and that we will be able to further strengthen our services to area families.”

In some ways, the award brings about a collective sigh of relief for the agency and its staff.

“Our 30-plus employees at the Child and Family Development Center spent two years wondering what would happen to their program,” says Ann Schreiner, president and CEO of Pillars. “They’ve stayed committed to the agency, to our mission, and to the families we serve at CFDC, so it is wonderful to be able to share this success with them.”