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Tuesday afternoon news, August 28th

(Le Mars) -- Taking care of small children in Northwest Iowa, that's the job of Northwest

Early Childhood Iowa. 

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Takysia Larsen is the director in charge of Plymouth, Sioux, Cherokee

and Lyon counties.  She went before the County Board of Supervisors this week to update them

on what services they provide in this region for kids age birth to 5.

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Funding for the organization comes primarily from state funding, with a small amount from

federal as well. Northwest Early Childhood Iowa has a budget of about $722,000 for the year,

which is down from nearly $1.4 million four years ago. 
A local board, including representitives from all four counties, decides what to do with the

funds on a local level.  This means that each county can tailor their funds to meet their

specific needs.
$337 thousand of their annual budget is dictated by the state to go toward parent support,

which is used to fund the Healthy Families Program.  Larsen says this program, in our area,

is contracted out through County Public Health Agencies.

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In Plymouth County specifically, 40 families were served through over 800 visits last year. 

Families are chosen to participate in this program through referrals, often from doctors,

and outreach efforts. Participation is completely voluntary. Families of any income are

considered, and risk factors such as drug abuse, put a family higher on the list to receive

help.

Another major program that's part of NW Early Childhood Iowa is pre-school support.  Low

income and poverty level families are provided with no charge head start programming. Larsen

says that middle income families who can't afford pre-school care can get help from NW Early

Childhood Iowa.   

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30 pre-schools participate in the program throughout Plymouth, Sioux, Cherokee and Lyon

Counties. All of them must have a "3 star" rating or higher on Iowa's Quality Rating System,

"5 stars" being the highest. To find out ratings for preschools around the state log onto:

http://www.dhs.state.ia.us/iqrs/qrs_providers/index.html

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