Grand Re-Opening of Our House Early Head Start
On Tuesday, Maryland Family Network officially re-opened Our House in Cherry Hill, this time as an Early Head Start program. This addition to our Early Head Start programs in Baltimore City comes after years of fundraising and navigating government red tape. The bright faces of the children who are served by this program and whose futures are therefore more promising are the payoff for the hard work of so many who were involved. Our House serves pregnant women and families with children up to age three who live in nearby public housing and from the greater community. We were joined at the grand re-opening by representatives of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) including Acting Commissioner of Housing and Community Development Michael Braverman and dedicated members of the HABC Resident Advisory Board. HABC takes responsibility for day-to-day operations of Our House. Also on hand were the wonderful Our House staff and families.
“We thank the Maryland Family Network, the France-Merrick Foundation, and the Maryland General Assembly for supporting HABC’s first Early Head Start program,” Mr. Braverman said. “Through this program, we can help prepare children for school, as well as provide parents with a continuum of educational, employment, parental, and social services that foster economic self-sufficiency.”
The funding to create the new center included a $250,000 Early Head Start grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; $200,000 from the France-Merrick Foundation; and $50,000 from a Community Development Bond Bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly.
What follows are my remarks from the ribbon cutting.
Maryland Family Network’s Address
Grand Re-Opening of Our House Early Head Start
Maryland Family Network has worked side-by-side with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) from the beginning, in January, 1987, almost exactly 30 years ago, when we awarded funding to HABC for a family support center. It opened in a small row-house on Round Road. The adjoining row-house was soon incorporated into the center not long afterwards. And in the 1990s the family support program moved into its current location in a beautiful new community center in Cherry Hill Homes, built with the family support center in mind.
That brings us to today, as we celebrate yet another milestone in the development of the Our House Family Support Center. In 2014, operating funds for this program nearly doubled with the award of an Early Head Start grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to Maryland Family Network, and then from Maryland Family Network to HABC. But the facility here did not meet state child care licensing standards nor federal Head Start programming standards. Maryland Family Network set out to raise the funds – over $500,000 – to renovate this space.
From what I say next, you will know that it takes a village to raise enough money to renovate space for an Early Head Start program! The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation provided funds so we could hire Ana Castro and Tom Casey from JRS architects to identify the changes needed and cost them out. And our procurement process resulted in the engagement of Steve Hulse and Cross Street Partners as a contractor, who has performed miracles against all sorts of odds and surprises. Next in the funding line-up was the France-Merrick Foundation, and I am so grateful to Amy Gross for the Foundation’s immediate and generous response. Following France-Merrick was the State legislature – at the time, District 46 Senator Bill Ferguson and Delegates Pete Hammen (now in Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office), Luke Clippinger, and Brooke Lierman. Finally, HHS allowed operating funds not needed to run a center-based program during renovation, to be used for construction costs. The space is now ready for families and children, and while families were supported through a system of home visiting for the last two plus years, now they have this beautiful new space.
A program like this is not a luxury. It is essential: all parents need support as they raise infants and toddlers, and we’ve always admired HABC for taking on and sustaining this responsibility in Cherry Hill Homes. Thelma Millard and Bradley Alston were early pioneers of this model in Baltimore City. They understood that the early years last forever. It is a time of brain development and secure attachment between adult and child. The beginning of life sets the foundation of all that is to come. We are grateful for the leadership of Cassandra DeLeon and the work of her team over many years, and we look forward to many more.
We hope that the Our House Early Head Start program is the foundation for thousands of bright futures in the years to come.