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White Center becomes “Center” of WA Preschool Innovation

February 21, 2008

White Center, WA – Two areas of Washington have been chosen as recipients of a major influx of cash and expertise that will enable them to focus on opportunities for children from birth to age 5. White Center, a city of 32,000 just south of Seattle, will be the first to receive grants of more than $11 million to build a new Early Learning Center. The pilot program includes everything from prenatal care and family home visits, to literacy for parents and training for childcare providers.

Nina Auerbach, executive director of Child Care Resources, says White Center and Yakima County were chosen because of their ethnic diversity.

"Diversity comes with challenges -- these towns have a lot of low-income families, and families for whom English is not their first language. So, there are going to be challenges, in terms of helping kids get ready to start school. There have not been as many resources in these areas as there have been in some other communities."

In White Center, one in five preschool children lives in poverty. Auerbach believes one unique aspect of the pilot program is that it includes expectant parents.

"This is a great strategy because learning, of course, starts at birth and if you've got parents that are ready and have the skills and the knowledge necessary to give their child the greatest start in life, that's going to pay off really well."

Yakima County will receive its funding later this spring. Auerbach says about half of Washington's children are not prepared for school when they start; this program is a way to try to tackle the problem from several angles. The grants are $4.7 million, from "Thrive by Five Washington," and $7 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
They'll be administered by the Puget Sound Educational Services District, Child Care Resources of King County, and the Seattle King County Public Health departments.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA