The Board of Directors of the tri-county collaboration between Jasper, Marion and Poweshiek counties (JMP) recently allocated Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) funding for fiscal year 2021.

The mission of the JMP ECI board is to ensure all children, beginning at birth, will be healthy and ready to succeed. The $659,133 in funding was allocated among ten programs throughout the three counties to support initiatives that serve children under the age of five and their families.

Per legislative guidance, the board allocated nearly $360,000 to two programs that provide in-home family support to at-risk families with children under the age of five. Marion County Public Health received $280,200 to administer a Parents as Teachers program in both Marion and Jasper counties.

MICA Family Connections received $79,354 to serve families in Poweshiek County using the Partners for a Healthy Baby curriculum. Both programs undergo a rigorous credentialing process and offer personalized support to young children and their families by focusing on reaching developmental milestones, family goal-setting and connecting families to additional services as needed. Both programs quickly pivoted in March to serve families safely from a distance and must continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Two programs received funding designed to support early childhood educators. The board allocated $46,940 to Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) to fund a child care consultant to serve the three-county area. CCR&R offers support to new and existing child care providers through training, quality incentives and coaching to provide the best possible environments in licensed centers and homes.

To support professional development, $27,000 was allocated to the ISU Extension Early Care and Education program to coordinate training opportunities for child care providers throughout the three counties. Relevant training opportunities increase quality, help providers meet licensing requirements and enrich early learning environments through new ideas and research.

Marion County Public Health also received $12,800 to provide Child Care Nurse Consultant services to child care providers and $23,500 to provide I-Smile services to preschool-age children. I-Smile provides preventive oral health services and identifies early signs of decay in young children and ensures children in need of a dental provider get the services they need.

UnityPoint-Grinnell Regional Public Health received $10,000 to provide postpartum home visits to new mothers in Poweshiek County to support breast-feeding success, healthy family environments and thriving newborns. Grinnell Community Early Learning Center was allocated $29,000 to support a sliding fee scale for families at or below 300% of the federal poverty level to ensure all families have equal access to quality childcare.

Child Care WAGE$ Iowa received $42,884 to support income supplements for child care providers. Qualified providers receive incentive pay every six months with the goal of increasing compensation and education levels of early care professionals to retain more qualified educators in the field.

The board allocated $53,164 to support and coordinate preschool scholarships for children ages three to five to ensure all children can access quality preschool programs to support kindergarten readiness. The remaining $54,290 supports the JMP ECI director, board expenses, liability insurance, fiscal agent and audit fees.

“Early childhood education, whether it’s in the form of child care, quality preschools, or supportive home environments, is so critical to a child’s long-term success,” says JMP Board Chair Brian Kingrey. “The ongoing pandemic has presented many challenges, but we’re pleased to be able to support programs that are reaching families and children despite the obstacles of COVID-19.”

JMP was formed in July 2012 to distribute funding from the state’s Early Childhood Iowa Program. Because the target population in each of the JMP counties was smaller than the target population of 5,000 zero-to-five-year-olds, the three counties formed a joint board to oversee grants to programs that serve at-risk children and families.

The Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation (GPCF) serves as the JMP fiscal agent, and a board of nine community members, three representatives from each county, oversees the contracts for programming.

Amy Blanchard, the JMP ECI Director, assists the volunteer board and commends them on their efforts.

“The board takes very seriously its mission to serve at-risk families with children under age five through home visitation services, equal access to preschool education and supporting quality child care environments. Balancing those priorities with an uncertain funding structure and programs grappling with providing service safely has been interesting, to say the least,” says Blanchard.

Blanchard believes the board is poised to be responsive to changing program needs and has allocated funding with this in mind this year.

“This was the most challenging year for granting I’ve experienced,” says Blanchard. “The board’s positive relationship with our contractors helped us immensely to navigate uncertain future funding and yet-to-determined demands for services in the coming year.”

The board allocated approximately $73,240 in an undesignated grant in anticipation of a mid-year budget reduction from the Iowa legislature, similar to what occurred in 2017. Unspent funds from last fiscal year will help the board meet program requests for this fiscal year when the board allocates those funds in late August.

The JMP board is seeking applications for new members to serve on the board or to join a committee. Kingrey encourages anyone that is committed to making a difference in early childhood education to contact Blanchard at 641-236-5518 to inquire about serving the JMP Early Childhood Iowa mission.

In addition to the state funds JMP administers, JMP also accepts private contributions to provide additional support to the various programs that support at-risk children and families. Individuals who wish to make private contributions to any of the early childhood programs within the JMP region may contact Blanchard at 641-236-5518, amy@greaterpcf.org.

JMP is a nonprofit partner organization of the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation. More information can be found at www.jmpeci.org or www.greaterpcf.org.

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