MSU Extension awarded grant to support Flint families with early childhood programs

Flint parents will have new resources for limiting the effects of lead exposure on their children thanks to a new MSU Extension program that will help them provide positive early childhood experiences.

Flint parents will have new resources for limiting the effects of lead exposure on their children thanks to a new Michigan State University (MSU) Extension program that will help them provide positive early childhood experiences.

Funded by a five-year grant, the program will be an expansion of MSU Extension’s strong commitment to helping the families affected by the Flint water crisis.

“We’re resolved to providing the Flint community with as much support as we possibly can to help address the long-term effects of what has happened here,” said Jeffrey Dwyer, MSU Extension director. “Research shows that developmental outcomes for children can be improved through positive early childhood experiences, and this grant will make it possible for our MSU Extension educators to provide more Flint families with information on how to implement these and other positive protective factors.”

During the grant period, MSU Extension will partner with two Flint neighborhoods heavily affected by lead contamination. The goal is to build a sustainable community model for parenting and early childhood education. The two community sites will offer parents and caregivers evidence- and research-based parenting education materials and child-focused activities based on community needs.

Parenting education classes will help parents discover how children learn and grow while demonstrating new ways to support healthy and positive child development. Caregivers will learn how to reduce parenting stress, increase the quality of their parent-child relationships and enhance their ability to respond to their child’s emotions appropriately.

Age-appropriate, child-focused activities will engage kids while encouraging healthy living and development. The community models will also help families create community connections and enjoy family-focused activities.

“Education and spending time with caring adults can help kids succeed, and by helping parents learn how to provide these types of positive early childhood experiences, we can help them limit the effects of lead on their children,” said Dwyer. “This grant will allow us to support hundreds of Flint families and build a sustainable community partnership for continuing this work after the grant ends.”

Grant funding for the program will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Children Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Communities Project. This fall, early childhood educators will partner with other community organizations and Flint residents to build the foundation for the parenting education initiative. They’ll determine in which neighborhoods they will pilot the program, assess community needs, choose educational materials and activities that meet community needs, and hire project staff to support the initiative.

The educators will also focus on developing partnerships with community leaders and agencies that can provide more support to parents, families and children. MSU Extension will begin offering parenting education classes in fall 2017.

To learn more about MSU Extension’s early childhood resources and its programs that support Flint residents, visit www.msue.msu.edu.

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