ANDERSON — After 18 years running the Early Head Start program in Madison County, the Hopewell Center is out at the end of June.
But it's not clear yet what group will take control of the federally-funded child development program.
Ken Swenson, assistant executive director of Hopewell, said the center was notified verbally in early May that its $600,000 annual grant for the program would not be renewed.
"We're very confused about this whole process," Swenson said. "I can't even tell you who's going to continue the services."
"We're just very sad about this because we've been providing quality services for Anderson for the past 18 years," added Jodi Mundhenk, Hopewell's coordinator for Early Head Start.
"I'm just devastated," said Amanda Keatts, whose 2 1/2-year-old son, Billy, attends classes at the center twice a week. "I feel like these people are family . . . I feel like I just got them and I got all this support when I had nothing before and now it's all going to be taken away."
In addition, a staff person from the program visits Billy at home every week for developmental therapy, Keatts said, which is extremely helpful because the boy was a slow talker who didn't know how to put his words together.
While Billy has three older siblings, "he needs to be around children his own age, and that's what this program did for me, it helped with the good kind of peer pressure and socialization," she added.
The Hopewell program currently serves 99 low-income children and there is always a waiting list to get in. Funded by the federal government, Early Head Start is a community-based program for low-income families with pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age 3.
It began in 1994 as an outgrowth of the Head Start program for older children and is operated by the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to early education, the program helps link families with medical, mental health and nutrition programs.