CARIBOU – Today Rep. Carol McElwee (R-Caribou), Caribou Chief of Police Michael Gahagan and Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall toured the Caribou Head Start Center and urged lawmakers from across Maine to make investments in early childhood a budget priority in the coming months.

Robert Benson/Getty Images
Robert Benson/Getty Images

McElwee is the leading sponsors of legislation seeking to restore $2 million to Head Start in the upcoming state biennial budget.  A public hearing on McElwee’s bill is expected in the coming weeks.  State budget deliberations will continue until policymakers approve a new budget, typically by June 30.

Gahagan and Crandall are members of the anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest In Kids and have long advocated to increase Maine’s investments in prevention programs that have proven positive impacts for children, such as Head Start, pre-kindergarten, educational child care, and child abuse and neglect prevention.

“If there is one clear lesson law enforcement knows from our experiences, it is that when Maine and our country fail to invest in children, we all pay far more later — not just in terms of lost lives, but also in tax dollars — because the cost of crime is so high,” Gahagan said.

“State and federal budgets will actually have more money to dedicate to other uses in the future by investing in programs to help kids get the right start in life, stay safe, and hopefully, stay out of crime.  Head Start is one of these very wise investments,“ Crandall said.

McElwee said her proposed legislation to add $2 million to current Head Start programs will help to better address the needs of lower income families with young children.  “Additional Head Start funding will address the significant unmet need for Head Start services, allowing more eligible parents to remain in or enter our workforce.”  McElwee said.  “Statewide only 28% of eligible children are currently being served in Head Start programs.  Head Start programs in Maine have been shown to improve child development during critical early years by building better literacy and problem solving skills, and improving social and emotional behaviors.  They produce lifelong benefits to children and our communities.”

The Caribou Head Start Program provides both an Early Head Start program for 12 children from birth to age 3, and a comprehensive preschool program for children 20 three- to five-year olds for income eligible families.  The programs also offer wrap around child care. These programs are administered by the Aroostook County Action Program and are designed to be child-centered learning focusing on school readiness in the areas of language, literacy, math and science.  The centers provide dental, vision, hearing, nutrition and developmental screening and follow-up for the children and work with families to strength outcomes.     Currently there is a waiting list at the Caribou Head Start Center.

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