Local Head Start programs see more need

Panama City - Last month we told you more than 1 in 6 Floridians are now living below the poverty line. That's the highest rate in more than a decade. There are many programs available to help Northwest Florida families who are struggling financially, one that benefits the youngest members of the family is Head Start.

Cameron and his grandma start every weekday at the Vetter Head Start Center in Panama City. It's home to one of several Head Start programs for low income families in Bay County. The goal of all of them is to get children ready for school. But participants say the program does so much more than that.

After raising children of her own, Sherry Sellers is now caring for her two grandchildren. Head Start is teaching her how to manage Cameron's epilepsy. "They know how to handle it more and they have taught me how to handle it," said Sellers.

It also helps parents become better parents. "The program provides the parenting skills that are needed as well. Me and my wife are a newly married couple so it's benefited us alot," said Michael Pierce. "Head Start is so important for the community because we are here to empower the parent and the families to be the best they can be," said Verma Hines, the director of the Vetter Head Start Center.

"We have a lot of families that are below the federal poverty line here in Bay County. We are seeing an increase in more and more families that are needing assistance and it's not just like daycare, it's childcare with an emphasis on education," said Tanya Walker with Early Education and Care.

"If this program was not here, where are the children going to go? There are so many kids here that would have no place to go," said Sellers.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in a Head Start program you can always reach an on-call advocate at 872-7550.


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