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Head Start and Early Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start are the anchors of MICA’s Early Childhood services. MICA opened the doors of its first Head Start classroom in 1964. Today, we have a total of 17 Head Start classrooms, three Early Head Start classrooms, and Early Head Start home-based services. Both programs are comprehensive in nature. They combine age-appropriate learning, social interaction, health screenings, nutrition education, strong parent involvement and family development.
MICA staff strongly believe in the utilization of age-appropriate learning techniques and the individuality of each child. Based upon the results of parent input, teacher observations, and child screenings, activities are tailored, the curriculum adapted, and the physical environment modified to support each child’s individual learning style and growth pattern. Children with identified developmental needs receive additional services in conjunction with community partners such as the Area Education Agency.
To build children’s social skills, MICA staff engage children in socialization activities. Good social skills are key to a child’s successful interaction with their peers, which in turn helps build a child’s self-esteem. Studies show children with strong self-esteem are more likely to be successful later in life than children with low self-esteem.
Good health also plays a critical role in a child’s development. To give Head Start and Early Head Start children a healthy start in their development, our staff make sure health screenings are conducted on every child enrolled in both programs. Children are screened for such health concerns as high blood lead levels, poor nutrition, poor dental health, and hearing and vision problems. Staff also educate parents about the importance of proper immunizations and refer them to appropriate health providers. Additionally, all meals and snacks served in MICA’s classrooms are planned by Registered Dietitians and meet nutrition standards put forth by the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Regular nutrition activities also take place in the classroom, introducing children to new foods while educating them on the importance of a healthy diet.
Perhaps no element is as critical to a child’s success as parent involvement. We believe parents are a child’s first and most important teachers. MICA’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs emphasize strong parental involvement. Head Start parents are encouraged to participate in the classroom, help set their child’s educational goals, attend class field trips, and read and do educational activities with their child at home. Early Head Start parents are taught the stages of a child’s development and activities they can do with their child to nurture her or his development. Through Policy Council and Parent Committees, Head Start and Early Head Start parents help shape the programs, making sure they continue to meet the needs of their family and child.
To strengthen the health and well-being of the entire family, Head Start and Early Head Start parents can also participate in Family Development. Through Family Development, MICA Family Development Specialists work one-on-one with families on issues that affect their overall success. In addition, parents can take part in parenting classes and fatherhood groups. All our efforts build on families’ strengths, helping them create safer, more nurturing environments for their children.
Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Program (FaDSS)
Each year, MICA helps Iowa families successfully re-enter the workforce through its Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Program (FaDSS). FaDSS provides in-home support to families receiving FIP (welfare) assistance, helping them increase their stability and their ability to become economically self-sufficient.
Through Family Development, MICA’s Family Development Specialists meet one-on-one with families in regular home visits. Together, Specialists and families address the barriers affecting their success. They complete assessment tools and develop goals around areas critical to the family’s overall well-being, such as employment, substance abuse treatment, education, physical health, and mental health.
Family Development is a powerful model. It empowers families to take control of their lives and create change. Family Development equips families with the skills they need for a successful future: strong problem-solving and goal-setting skills; an understanding of the dynamics at play in their lives; and a vision for the future.
Facts About MICA’s FaDSS Program
- Statistics for individuals enrolled in MICA’s FaDSS Program in 2002:
- 57% were children
- 10% had disabilities
- 15% were from minority ethnic groups
- Of the families enrolled in MICA’s FaDSS Program in 2002, 82% were single-parent households.
- The average household income for families enrolled in the program increased by 33% during 2002.
- In 2002, MICA’s FaDSS Program saved the sate of Iowa $153,342 in FIP payments. Statewide, FaDSS programs saved the state a total of $1,671,672 in FIP payments.
- Every dollar invested in FaDSS results in $1.50 in earned wages and FIP savings. The dollars earned in wages are then contributed back into the community through consumer spending and taxes.
- MICA’s FaDSS Program serves ten central Iowa counties: Boone, Grundy, Hardin, Jasper, Marion, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story, Tama and Warren.
WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program)
MICA opened its first WIC clinic in 1977. Almost thirty years later, we provide nutrition and food assistance to approximately 5,300 low-income women and children each month in eight central Iowa counties: Boone, Hardin, Jasper, Mahaska, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story, and Tama.
WIC is a short-term intervention program designed to strengthen families by influencing lifetime nutrition and health behaviors in populations at increased risk of poor health and malnutrition. WIC’s combination of nutrition education, nutritious foods, breastfeeding support, and health care oversight provides families a gateway to good health. Some of the services our staff provide families include:
- financial assistance with the purchase of healthy foods
- nutrition classes
- health screenings
- coordination with community lead and immunization efforts
- breastfeeding support and information
- healthy recipes
- information and enrollment in health insurance programs
WIC Makes a Difference
Studies show that low-income children enrolled in WIC have a lower prevalence of anemia—a deficiency of iron that affects one in four low-income children—than those who are not enrolled. Children who participate in WIC after their first birthday also achieve better digit memory test scores than children who do not participate in WIC.
Pregnant women enrolled in WIC have fewer premature births, fewer low birth-weight babies, and fewer fetal and infant deaths. They also seek prenatal care earlier in their pregnancy and consume more of key nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium and vitamin C.
Promoting the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
WIC promotes breastfeeding as the preferred method of infant feeding. Breast milk contains all the nutrients infants need for healthy growth and development. Breastfed infants are healthier because they receive antibodies from their mother’s breast milk, protecting them against infections. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding: breastfeeding reduces the risk for osteoporosis and several types of reproductive cancer in women.
Other breastfeeding facts:
- Formula feeding is associated with lower IQ.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula.
- Formula feeding may increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Breastfeeding protects babies against vision defects.
- Mothers who breastfeed have fewer doctor visits.
- Breastfeeding facilitates proper dental and jaw development.
Combatting Childhood Obesity
MICA dietitians participate in various initiatives to decrease childhood obesity. One such initiative is a collaborative effort among the WIC Bureau of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa State University, and Iowa State University Extension. This project works with mothers and children on increasing the amount of vegetables in children’s diets.
Another initiative, the Tama County Kids Club, works with four-year-olds on building healthier lifestyles by eating fruits and vegetables and incorporating regular exercise into their lives. The project is funded by Tama County Empowerment.
Healthy mothers, healthy babies. The two go hand in hand. MICA’s Maternal Health Program helps women receive the prenatal and post-partum care they need in order to have healthy babies. These services are provided in six central Iowa counties: Benton, Boone, Hardin, Marshall, Story and Tama.
Our Maternal Health program is an education-based program. It provides women an additional layer of health care in conjunction with their regular physician visits. Maternal Health participants receive support, education and counseling about their health needs during and after pregnancy.
Prenatal Education and Assistance
A Maternal Health nurse is available to participants during the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy, as well as post-partum. The nurse provides prenatal education to all program participants and talks with them about:
- the physical changes experienced during pregnancy
- the individual factors that can affect a pregnancy
- how to prepare for the arrival of their baby
- prenatal classes
- childbirth programs
- health care providers and insurance coverage options
The Maternal Health program may also assist with prenatal vitamins and iron supplements.
A Registered Dietitian provides nutrition counseling for the Maternal Health program. Consultations with the dietitian address proper nutrition and good health habits during and after pregnancy, emphasizing the special dietary needs of pregnant women. Dietitians also provide instruction and support on breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
MICA’s Maternal Health program gives participants access to a social worker who can assist them with personal and family issues; provide emotional support; advocate for the family’s needs; and help them locate community resources.
A registered dental hygienist provides information to women on prenatal changes that affect a woman’s oral health. Dental screenings and fluoride varnish are also available, with referrals to local dentists made as needed.
After a Maternal Health participant has given birth, a registered nurse conducts a home visit with the new mother and baby, assisting the mother with any concerns or questions she may have.
MICA’s Child Health program promotes the development of local systems of health care for children ages 0 through 21 and their families. Fundamental to our effort are services that are family-centered, community-based, collaborative, comprehensive, flexible, culturally competent, and developmentally appropriate.
Through our program, families can receive:
- physical exams
- thorough dental, vision, hearing, social, nutrition and developmental screenings
- financial assistance to help cover the costs of dental exams, medical appointments and prescription drugs
- assistance in finding a medical home
- referrals to appropriate medical personnel or other resources
MICA provides these services in six central Iowa counties: Benton, Boone, Hardin, Marshall, Story and Tama.
Weatherization Assistance Program
In the mid-1970s, MICA began helping families lower utility costs by increasing their homes’ energy efficiency. Today, MICA weatherizes more than 100 homes every year.
The repairs our weatherization teams make to homes are determined by preliminary energy audits, during which the auditor:
- tests the home for the presence of carbon monoxide (CO)
- checks chimneys for proper draft
- conducts combustion safety tests on appliances such as water heaters and stoves
- tunes furnaces (if needed) to maximize their efficiency
- checks the home for air tightness
- checks the home for existing insulation
- meters refrigerators and freezers for electricity use
A specialized computer program called NEAT (National Energy Audit Technology) analyzes the information collected during the audit. NEAT identifies home improvements with the highest energy savings per dollar invested. MICA’s Weatherization Technicians complete the identified improvements, which may include such strategies as:
- insulation of attics and walls
- sealing air leaks in walls, floors and ceilings
- replacement of unsafe furnaces and water heaters
- replacement of inefficient refrigerators and freezers
- installation of high-efficiency light bulbs
- installation of low-flow faucet aerators or shower heads
- insulation of hot water pipes