Child Start in Missoula lands $1.5M grant for education initiative

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester last week announced a $1.5 million grant for Child Start, Inc., a Missoula-area Head Start program that works to enrich the education of low-income children.

Pat Croghan, local Child Start director, said the continuous U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is split among five counties in the service area, including Missoula, Granite, Sanders, Mineral and Powell counties.

For Child Start, that means the funding covers the first six months of its grant year, said Croghan. Her office is funded twice a year for a five-year grant.

The grant will cover administrative and program services. Child Start provides education enrichment to low-income children between the ages of 3-to-5 years.

“Our primary source of funding is our HHS grant in the amount of $2.9 million over 5 years,” Croghan said. “We are secured yearly over those five years. It does not include nonfederal matches; we collect from the community since we are a nonprofit.”

Croghan said the grant amount increases if there is a Cost of Living Adjustment. The $2.9 million comprised Child Start’s 2019 share. Her office is funded every January and July.

Child Start in Missoula serves 314 children and has 73 employees, including a management team that writes grants.

“We provide 17 classroom settings in five locations and in addition home-based services in Thompson Falls and Plains,” she added. “Early Head Start is Ravalli County’s program and serves children ages 0 to 3. We each have our own grants.”

Separate from Child Start in Missoula is Early Head Start, which includes Ravalli County. Altogether, she said, 3,000 Head Start agencies exist throughout the United States.

The funding comes on the heels of Tester’s push to secure more than $10 billion in funding for Head Start programs across the country last month. The $1.5 million grant is an increase of more than $550 million from the previous year.

“In order to be successful, our kids need access to a quality education,” Tester said in a statement. “Head Start helps our youngest students build a strong foundation for learning, and this grant will provide Missoula kids with the resources they need to arrive at school prepared and ready to learn and thrive.”

Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com.