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Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center receives more than $3M for Early Head Start

A group of toddlers walk down the street with an adult.
Emma Lee

The Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center received more than $3 million Friday for its early childhood services. The money is part of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The funds will go to the center’s Early Head Start programs for infants and toddlers.

According to Deborah Gallagher, the Early Head Start and family center director for the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center, the money will serve up to 333 children at early childhood education centers the organization partners with in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The council works to aid the region’s Native American community, as well as other marginalized groups.

“We also buy supplies for the classrooms, pay for professional development of the teachers, provide a code to provide mental health consultation services, have family support services,” Gallagher said.

Early Head Start programs provide families living below the federal poverty line with tools for success in kindergarten and beyond. More than 7,000 Pennsylvania kids were enrolled as of last year.

Centers receiving benefits from the program must have one teacher for every four kids in the classroom. Gallagher said the money will be used, in part, to help those teachers advance professionally.

Many Early Head Start programs nationwide have struggled to find teachers, forcing them to cut slots and place families on waitlists.

“Sometimes the state money isn't always there, and then we can use our training and technical assistance funds to help them become credentialed and move up the career ladder so that there's career movement for them,” she added.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.