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Missouri consolidates programs in new Office of Childhood

More details are emerging about the new Office of Childhood that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced last week.

“Missouri families deserve the best early childhood system our state can provide,” Parson said. “This is also a critical area of workforce development for our state. We must see to it that the workforce of tomorrow starts off on the right foot, and that means better support for Missouri children and their families.”

The office will consolidate early childhood programs from the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Health and Senior Services (DHSS)\ and Social Services (DSS). The transition is meant to streamline the state’s programs and create consistency and quality across the state. It will also work with Christian adoption and foster care agencies across the state including Catholic Charities, Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and others.

The new office will be housed under DESE and include programs related to early learning and intervention, home visiting and child care. DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said the programs would bolster the education and development of the next generation of Missourians.

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“The early years of a child’s life are truly the foundation for lifelong learning,” she said. “We know that children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs achieve greater success in school and have improved health and lower crime rates as adults. To finish strong, with a capable future workforce, we must provide children with a strong start.”

The office will consist of 145 employees across the state. It was officially created by an executive order from Parson and is set to receive a $660 million budget for the 2022 fiscal year. The order will take effect on August 28 unless the legislature disapproves it within 60 days.

Parson announced the formation of the new office during his State of the State address as part of his focus on education and workforce development. Parson also committed to fully funding the state’s foundation formula and expanding broadband access as virtual learning becomes more prevalent across the country. Two recipients of the state’s Fast Track Workforce Incentive grant were recognized by Parson during the speech, as were two administrators from St. Louis-based early education center Unleashing Potential.

Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice