Worry Free and Ready to Learn

Arkansas Family Thriving with Support from Save the Children Head Start Center

After a productive morning filled with books and puzzles, there’s certainly nothing uncommon about 3-year-old Easton sitting down with his classmates and digging into a healthy snack of bananas and yogurt.

But for his classroom teachers, what’s uncommon is there are no longer allergy concerns for Easton around meal and snack time.

Born allergic to milk, egg whites and almonds, Easton was unable to eat many common snacks. Fortunately, the Save the Children Head Start center has always made sure to plan his snacks and meals accordingly, while also keeping the proper emergency treatment supplies on hand, in case he had a severe allergic reaction.

“They made sure they had everything, just in case anything happened to him,” said Easton’s mom Kristen, who noted her son has since grown out of his food allergies.

The Save the Children Head Start center is a rare resource for low-income families in Kristen and Easton’s northwest Arkansas community, which struggles with poverty and unemployment. It offers parents like Kristen critical resources and guidance, and an opportunity for their kids to gain essential early learning and social skills. 

The Head Start teachers’ handling of Easton’s allergies is reflective of how they take care of all of the children who enter their doors, Kristen indicated. Her son also gets itchy rashes from a skin condition called eczema, and the teachers make sure not to wear any perfume or use cleaners with any fragrance that could spur an outbreak.

And when Kristen’s 6-year-old-daughter Mya was diagnosed with hearing loss at age 2, the Head Start center staff immediately made sure a speech therapist was coming to the center regularly to work with her.

“It’s like they read my mind,” said Kristen, who added that Mya is now thriving in kindergarten.

For Kristen and her family, the center’s desire to help – and community network – has also been a key reason why they now have steady jobs and a home to call their own.

“Whenever we were out of work, they were telling us about jobs that were available,” Kristen said. “We were pretty much homeless, going from job to job, and Save the Children has always been there, helping us find a place to live. They have blessed my family in so many different ways.”

And perhaps most importantly, Kristen indicates, she feels she can talk to the center’s teachers and staff about any challenge her family or child is facing.

“I can open up to them about anything, and they don’t judge me – they can help me through it,” she said. “It’s like they’re my counselor and my mom and everything else.”

When it comes to all the families at the center, there are no second bananas, excepting the one Easton grabs at snack time, worry free.

Stories like this are a reminder of why Head Start and child care programs are so essential to families across America.

Learn more about Save the Children Action Network’s work to promote Early Childhood Education programs.

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Jeremy Soulliere is the deputy media and communications director for Save the Children’s U.S. Programs. He is committed to spreading the word about Save the Children’s impactful work for children and families in the United States.