CITC to Launch Head Start Center in March

Clare Swan Head Start will offer more than just affordable childcare

The Clare Swan Early Head Start Center, named for CITC Board of Directors Chair Clare Swan, will open in February

The Clare Swan Early Head Start Center, named for CITC Board of Directors Chair Clare Swan, will open in February.

Finding childcare in Anchorage is about to become a lot easier for Alaska Native families, thanks to CITC’s newest project, the Clare Swan Early Head Start Child Care Center.

“This new program is a blessing. It’s filling a huge need in our community,” said Holly Morales, director of CITC Employment and Training. “Our participants will have access not only to quality head start that provides essential, developmentally appropriate education to their children, but also to wrap-around services for the whole family.”

The center represents a larger collaboration between CITC and the Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to strengthen families by promoting job preparation, work, and strong values. “With the power of CITC’s existing services available to us,” explained Family Services Manager Connie Wirz, “we’ll really be able to provide a solid safety net for the families who need it. We’ll be able to work with parents one-on-one, and when we have families at a higher level of need, or who are looking for education or employment services, we have a ready referral place.”

The location of the Clare Swan Early Head Start Center, at 800 Northway Drive, was chosen for its ease of access to the Nat’uh Service Center, just a couple blocks north, where the bulk of CITC’s programs and services are offered. CITC purchased the facility, a former restaurant, and with Cook Inlet Housing Authority acting as project manager, gutted the building and refurbished it, adding classrooms, a commercial kitchen, staff lounge, health center, and meeting room. Outside, a colorful playground is designed around a giant map of Southcentral Alaska.

Currently under construction, the new head start center will serve 76 infants and toddlers.

Currently under construction, the new head start center will serve 76 infants and toddlers.

Scheduled to open March 1, the new head start center will serve up to 72 children, ages six weeks to 36 months, with nine classrooms, two of which will offer 10-hour programs for children whose parents require extended childcare. While CITC will provide family services staff and support, the Anchorage Vineyard Early Learning Center will administer the day-to-day oversight of the center and is providing teachers who have specialized training in social/emotional learning.The Clare Swan Early Head Start Center places an emphasis on employing Alaska Native/American Indian teachers and employees, with about 90 percent of its staff composed of AN/AI employees.

Thanks to a Language Nest Grant from the Administration for Native Americans, the head start center and Cook Inlet Native Head Start will also offer three Yup’ik language immersion classes — the first of their kind in Anchorage. A Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program grant awarded to the center will also equip CITC to provide intensive support to families in the program and in the greater community.

“We’re creating something that’s intended to go beyond just quality, affordable childcare,” explained Deb Northburg, CITC’s director of Child and Family Services (CFS). “The head start center will be a place for parents to connect with each other as peers and get excited about their children’s development, growth, health, and safety.”

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The location of the new center, at 800 Northway Dr., was chosen for its quick access to the Nat’uh Service Center, just a couple blocks away.

It also offers the prospect of a solid, well paying job for some CITC participants. Among the newly trained teachers are nine TANF parents; Wirz says positions like cook’s assistant and receptionist may equip TANF and Supported Work Experience participants with on-the-job training.

While any family may apply to this income-eligibility-based head start program, preference is given to existing TANF and Child Care Assistance families. Applicants must provide a birth certificate, proof of income, and Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB), along with the online application.

“We’re very excited to offer this new CITC program,” Northburg said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to engage the whole family and to provide a place where parents can connect and build a community.”

To apply for the new head start program, click here.

For more information, contact Connie Wirz at cwirz@citci.org or Child and Family Services at (907) 793-3132.