Whole Family Benefits from Early Head Start
Parents DeAndre and Raechelle Knighten say they wouldn’t be where they are now if it had not been for Tampa YMCA’s Early Head Start (EHS) program. EHS is a federally-funded, community-based program for low-income families. The safe and developmentally-enriching program serves pregnant women and children under three, promoting their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development.
The Knightens enrolled their son, Josiah, now 3, and daughter, Jasmyne, now 5, in EHS when they were six months and two years old. “It was very helpful for us because we both had to work and if you don’t have childcare, you can’t go to work,” Raechelle says. “It’s expensive. And with two children under toddler age it’s even more expensive.” “We were looking at probably spending close to $800 a month,” says DeAndre.
The program even enabled Raechelle to get a better job in her field. “It was very helpful to be able to complete school while being a parent and having young children,” Raechelle says.
“A lot of parents just see it as free childcare and I tell them it’s much more than that,” DeAndre says. “I’ve seen a difference with numbers, letters, writing, even just communication. They’re speaking to us in better sentences. They’re learning Spanish.”
EHS also supports parents in their roles as primary caregivers. The Knightens say it’s important for parents to get involved. “Involvement with fathers is very rare,” says Raechelle. But that’s not the case with DeAndre, who is the Tampa Y’s Youth Development Volunteer of the Year. He also received an award last month for most volunteer hours at his children’s school. In addition, DeAndre is an EHS Community Representative. “I let a lot of people know about the program and how important it really is,” he says.
Next on the list for the couple is owning their own home. “We’re excited,” says Raechelle. “We’re going to try and get one built. I know we’ll get there soon,” DeAndre says. “The Y helped us reach a lot of our goals. Everything we told the Y we wanted to do – they helped us with every step.”
Click here to download an application and for more information about the Tampa Y’s EHS program.
Pictured above: DeAndre and Raechelle Knighten says the Tampa Y’s Early Head Start program is helping the entire family reach its full potential.