WYANDOTTE COUNTY, Kan. – Young children in Kansas could soon lose a program aimed at growing their minds from the very start.
“I see a little girl who has just blossomed,” Parents as Teachers educator Lauren Ware said of four-year-old Claire.
She’s has grown into her four-year-old skin just fine — more than fine really, thanks to Parents as Teachers.
“I had this little 18-month bouncing baby, and I didn’t even a clue at what to do,” Claire’s mother Flora Nyakatura said.
She said her daughter’s early years could’ve been a lot different.
“Lauren, Parents As Teachers, the entire program has been my backbone,” Nyakatura said.
Ware is Claire’s home-visiting educator. Funding for this program was cut at the end of September, along with other programs aimed at investing in early childhood development.
Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash has gone to Washington, D.C. to lobby for kids, hoping to explain how important it is to take the time and care in the early years.
“I’m not sure why these programs seem to always be on the chopping block,” he said. “If we can invest just a few dollars in them on the front end, that then saves us a lot of money in incarceration and costs through the criminal justice system on the back end.”
Ware said the program also helps parents of youngsters.
“If they stay connected to their educator and to the school district, they’re more successful with that journey of parenting,” she said.
Nyakatura certainly agrees that early-childhood development is beneficial for both her and her daughter.
“I came in lacking confidence and parenting and not really sure — really unsure of what I was doing, and to hear someone say, ‘No, you’re doing a wonderful job, and here are other tools to help with that!’”
Tools that have helped pave a bright future for her curious little preschooler.
The group hopes lawmakers will change their minds, instead of closing the chapter on what they say is a great program.
There is a chance lawmakers could reauthorize this act after the tax bill is figured out.
If they don’t, Kansas will lose 500 slots for families. More than half of those will be in Wyandotte County alone.