Head Start Opens First Infant Classroom in Santa Barbara County

Head Start Opens First Infant Classroom in Santa Barbara County title=
Head Start Opens First Infant Classroom in Santa Barbara County
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Lorraine Neenan, Head Start Director accepts a contribution to Head Start of Santa Barbara County from Jim Carrillo, Vice President, Residential Properties for The Towbes Group as Pat Keelean, CEO of Community Action Commission looks on.

Source: Community Action Commission

Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County (CAC) announces the opening of the county’s first classroom for infants at the Head Start and Early Head Start child care and education center in Carpinteria. The comprehensive child development program, including services for children with disabilities, is now enrolling infants and toddlers ages 3 months to 36 months from low-income families. 

“A recent needs assessment report by the Santa Barbara County Child Care Planning Council shows that over 35,000 children in the county are estimated to need Early Care and Education (ECE), said Lorraine Neenan, the Program Director for Head Start. “The greatest need is for infants and toddlers ages 0 to 3 years. Our ECE team has worked hard to accomplish this first infant classroom site in Carpinteria, and we have plans for more throughout the county”.

Over five decades ago, Head Start began because its founders understood the positive outcomes for children in high quality early care and education programs - their school performance improves, they increase their chance of graduating high school, and improve their earning potential as adults. More recently, Early Head Start programs have been instituted because medical research shows that children’s brains develop fastest between birth and the age of three, and that their development is shaped by the experiences and environments they encounter day by day. 

The sun-brightened space for infant and toddler care and education is in a large classroom of a former elementary school decommissioned by the Carpinteria Unified School District and now leased to Head Start. A portion of the room holds rocking chairs, sleeping cribs and crawl rugs with educational toys and tactile, visually-stimulating play objects. The center of the room is outfitted for both infants and toddlers and holds child-sized tables and chairs, a book nook, several activity corners and discovery centers. At this Early Head Start site, there is one teacher for every two infants, and one teacher for every four toddlers, with a total capacity for 12 children between the ages of 3 to 36 months. All Head Start teachers have college degrees in Early Childhood education. (An AA degree is the minimum requirement; most Head Start teachers have Bachelor degrees.) A healthy breakfast, lunch and nutritious snacks are provided daily (Mon- Fri) to all Head Start students. 

One of the first to enroll in this Early Head Start program for infants is ten-month-old Samara, whose mother Elia Espinal signed her up after first hearing about the local ECE program at an English language class. Espinal said that in just the first two weeks her infant daughter had learned to accept her mother leaving her in the classroom, and enjoyed opportunities to sing and “read” with the teachers and “baby–talk” with other infants. At home, a lively and engaged Samara frequently shows her family that she has learned to applaud. 

At Head Start, every child receives a variety of learning experiences to foster intellectual, physical, social, and emotional growth. Children participate in indoor and outdoor play and are introduced to the concepts of words and numbers to ensure they are ready for Kindergarten. They are encouraged to express their feelings, and to develop self-confidence and the ability to get along with others.

“Head Start also stresses the importance of parent involvement,” said Neenan. “We encourage and provide training to parents to be actively involved in child’s education, to be their child’s advocate. We see the addition of this first infant classroom for Head Start of Santa Barbara County as an important asset in building strong, self-sufficient families which, in turn, strengthens our community.” Families interested in the Early Head Start program can call (805) 964-885 x 1194. More information is available at www.cacsb.org or on Facebook.


Head Start/Early Head Start in Santa Barbara County is operated by Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara (CAC), and is funded, in part, by government grants. At the recent opening of the infant classroom in Carpinteria, Jim Carrillo, Vice President, Residential Properties for The Towbes Group presented a $13,675 contribution to Head Start from its employee-driven philanthropic program, Give Where You Live. https://www.towbes.com/philanthropy/

About CAC: Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County creates opportunities for families and individuals to achieve stability through its 22 health and human service programs, including Head Start, Healthy Senior Lunch, Weatherization and Energy Assistance, Family & Youth Services, and 2-1-1 Santa Barbara. CAC serves more than 10,000 people throughout the county each year. It also employs over 400 health, education and social service workers and is one of Santa Barbara County’s largest employers. Community Action Commission is a private non-profit agency that leverages support for Santa Barbara County residents through private funding as well as government contracts and grants. More information available at www.cacsb.com

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