Federal grant with Milwaukee center will expand offerings here
Stepping Stones Children’s Centers, which operates child-care facilities in Port Washington and Belgium, has entered into a partnership with a Milwaukee child-care provider to expand programming for at-risk youngsters in Ozaukee County.
Through its new relationship with Next Door, a longtime early-education provider in Milwaukee’s central city, Stepping Stones will now be able to offer Early Head Start child-care programs.
The collaboration was made possible through a $4.8 million federal grant secured by Next Door. Stepping Stones is one of six regional child-care providers selected by Next Door to offer the early childhood programming.
Head Start programs and services are designed to raise the quality of care for infants and toddlers from income-eligible families. Programs are offered to meet family needs from the mother’s pregnancy to the child’s third birthday.
Stepping Stones officials expect bringing the expanded services to Ozaukee County will benefit all children receiving care at the local centers.
“We are very excited to be included in this partnership,” said Laura Klingelhoets, Stepping Stones owner and administrator.
“It will help us to offer more comprehensive services to the children in our care and better support families as a whole.”
Among the services that will be available through the new partnership are health screenings, family support and resources, nutritious meals and snacks and services for children with special needs.
Stepping Stones has been providing early education and school-age programs in the county since 1995.
The Next Door program can trace its roots even further back.
“Next Door’s 45 years of experience serving low-income families allows us to bring proven strategies to partner programs,” said Carol Keintz, the program’s executive director.
“Research shows that the earlier a child is enrolled in a quality education program, the more likely they are to succeed in school and beyond. We are excited to lead this effort and bring these partners together to better serve the community.”
Keintz said the goal is to “create a hub of comprehensive services by leveraging the strengths of each partner.”
Stepping Stones first opened in Belgium, and moved to various sites before settling at 420 Park St.
It also has a Port Washington location in the lower level of Harbor Club and Village, 425 W. Walters St., allowing for considerable interaction with senior residents who live at the facility.
Between the two facilities, the program serves about 150 children. The centers have 21 employees.
Locations in the past have included Fredonia, Random Lake, and a before- and after-school program within the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District.
The federal Head Start Act, which was enacted into law in 1994, serves pregnant women and infants and toddlers from birth to age 3.
Supporters say Early Head Start programs elevate a child’s social and cognitive development and extend health, nutrition, social, and other support services to family members.
STEPPING STONES LEAD teacher Angel Noll played with youngsters at the child-care center’s Belgium facility. A partnership with the Milwaukee-based Next Door will bring even more services to Ozaukee County through the Early Head Start program. Photo by Mark Jaeger