Catholic Charities Head Start and Early Head Start provide early education, child development and intervention programs for 918 children at 20 sites in Baltimore City, Harford County and Carroll County. We also operate two home-based programs, in Carroll and Harford Counties, where poverty can hide behind the natural beauty of the suburban and rural landscape. Because family members are the most important influence on a child’s development, all of our Head Start programs involve family members in policy, planning and operations decisions.
When their grandson, Oliver, was born, Susan and Marlin Felmey were there to help. “It’s so expensive to live in Carroll County, it’s hard to make ends meet,” they said. So their empty nest was full again. When Oliver was 18 months old, their daughter enrolled Oliver in Head Start, and “our only complaint is that it doesn’t go to 12th grade,” Marlin said. “We have loved every minute.”
The Felmeys take every opportunity to be involved. Marlin sits on the program’s Policy Council and was recognized for his service as Carroll Head Start Parent of the Year. It’s been a learning experience not just for Oliver, but for his grandparents, said Marlin, “I was working when my children were small, and the ideas about raising children have changed so dramatically since our day.”
Catholic Charities has operated Carroll County Head Start since 2000. Today, it serves 191 families in home-based programs, its main center and two satellite locations. According to program director Patricia Foley, “poverty is everywhere—and that is why Head Start is in just about every county and state in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.”
A regular presence at Oliver’s Head Start center, the Felmeys are mentors and supports for young parents, encouraging them to take advantage of resources available to them through Head Start. They are passionate advocates for a program they didn’t know existed just a few years ago. As Susan explained, “Every child deserves the same opportunities to learn and succeed.”