The Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee Counties, in partnership with the Division of Early Learning in Tallahassee, administers federal and state child care funds to deliver comprehensive early learning services. The coalition oversees three programs for our three-county area—the School Readiness Program, the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, and Child Care Resource and Referral services.
The School Readiness Program offers financial assistance to low-income families for early education and care, so they can become financially self-sufficient and their young children can be successful in school in the future. There are three requirements to participate:
- Parent(s)/guardian(s) must be working or participating in an educational activity such as attending college or trade school at least 20 hours per week.
- Gross income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level for family size.
- Families must pay a copayment for child care based on income and family size.
- Other children may be eligible if they have special needs or are at-risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment, or if their parents are homeless, victims of domestic violence or are low-income migrant families or farm workers.
VPK is a free educational program that prepares 4-year-olds for success in kindergarten and beyond. Children must live in Florida and be 4 on or before September 1 of the current year to be eligible. Private child care centers, public schools and specialized instructional service providers may offer VPK and parents have several programs to choose from—school-year, summer and specialized instruction for children with disabilities.
Finally, through the Division of Early Learning, Child Care Resource and Referral is a statewide network with information for families with young children. The network maintains current information about child care options, how to select quality care and referrals to other critical community resources. The service is free for any family living in or preparing to move to Florida. The state resource and referral office operates a toll-free early learning call center for families and providers with information and access to all early learning programs in Florida. The number is 866-357-3239.
Thanks to our community partners, parents, providers and board members, the Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee Counties is able to offer excellent resources and support for our children and families.
Marsha B. Powers, CEO