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Family Inc. has been awarded a multi-million-dollar grant to provide Early Head Start services in Pottawattamie County.

The nonprofit organization, based in Council Bluffs, will receive $1.2 million in base funding each year for five years, plus additional money for training and start-up costs, said Kimberly Kolakowski, executive director.

“This allows us to expand our outreach to serve even more families,” she said.

Specifically, the organization will be able to hire about 15 additional employees and serve 75 more children, Kolakowski said.

“It’s a life-changing moment for Family Inc.,” she said.

Family Inc. workers will visit at-risk families with children up to 3 years old and help parents learn to foster their children’s intellectual development so the children are school ready when it’s time for them to start kindergarten, Kolakowski said. In addition, the organization will offer group classes twice a month and hold games or other activities for children to participate in while their parents are in class. This will give them opportunities to develop social skills.

“Our focus is to prepare the parents to be the children’s first and most influential teachers,” she said. “We’re getting in very early to give parents the tools they need to set that family up for a lifetime of success.”

The role is closely related to a program Family Inc. already offers, Kolakowski said.

“Our organization has been offering home visits since 1991 with the Parents as Teachers model,” she said. “We will continue to offer our existing program.”

The current visitation program services families with children younger than 5 and those that are expecting a child. Visitors also connect families with community resources they may need.

Early Head Start uses an updated version of the same evidence-based curriculum, Kolakowski said.

As an Early Head Start provider, Family Inc. will have to make sure all of its programs meet federal requirements, she said.

Family Inc. will begin hiring immediately and probably enroll children in the program in August, Kolakowski said.

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