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Kansas City, Kansas Public School District was recently awarded a $1,392,289 grant from the Kansas Children's Cabinet Trust Fund - Early Childhood Block Grant to address a service gap for at-risk populations in their borders.  They will be able to increase services for children ages 36-48 months and teen parents.

Kansas City, Kansas Public School district has identified a service gap for two at-risk populations within their geographical region:  children ages 36-48 months and teen parents.  Project SPARK, Successful Partnerships to Assure Readiness for Kindergarten, will align existing services through community partners and implement new services tailored to Blueprint Goals, increasing Kindergarten readiness for three year olds and children of teen parents.  Using evidence-based approaches, Project SPARK will increase the services available to both underserved groups, raise the quality of instruction for all services, and offer support to families, empowering them with tools to help their children succeed.

Collaboratively, KCKPS and the community partners identified the following gaps: 1) There are limited opportunities for 3 year olds (36-48 months). Early Head Start and PAT only support students through 36 months. State funding is available at 48 months to at-risk children.  While Head Start and Early Childhood Special Education accept 3 year olds, Head Start prioritizes 4 year olds. 86 three year olds are on a waiting list. There is a full 12 month gap for 130 known children, not counting 64 three year old children currently served by Project SPARK.  2) There is limited support for pregnant teenagers and teen parents in this geographic area. Healthy Families Wyandotte provides some in-home services to at risk first time parents.  These services are not tailored to teen parents or focused on helping teen parents stay in school so they can provide a stronger foundation for their children.1 Grace Center, a maternity home for 6 girls ages 10-18, provides programs to prepare for work, continued education, and parenting.  KCKPS will align existing and proposed services through a single early childhood application process, increasing services to 3 year old children and children of teen mothers, working with community child care providers to raise the quality of instruction, and providing Family Services Workers to increase families’ support systems and self-sufficiency.

Although many children and families in Kansas City, Kansas meet at risk criteria, the geographic region chosen for Project SPARK is an area of even greater need, including 89% of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch and 52% of families who speak a language other than English at home. There are 10,200 children, birth to five, and 52 expectant parents at risk.

Successful Partnerships to Assure Readiness for Kindergarten (Project SPARK) will serve the eastern and southern half of the Kansas City Kansas Public School District USD 500 (KCKPS), including schools in the Wyandotte and Harmon High School Clusters in Kansas City, Wyandotte County.