Judge Starts New Early Childhood Support Program

By ISABELLA MOLLER | imoller@kark.com

Published 08/20 2014 08:47PM

Updated 08/21 2014 08:33AM

“It has no economic boundaries. Good parenting needs to happen from the wealthiest individuals to the poorest,” said Judge Dan Heath.

Dan Heath, Judge for Allen Superior Court Family Relations Division, announced Wednesday a new program that would give parents assistance in the development of their infant’s cognitive and lingual growth as well as other resources.

“My probation officers tell me that they’re zoned out because they can’t relate any further to the subject matter being discussed by the teacher. They can’t compete with their peers, they’ve fallen too far behind,” said Judge Dan Heath.

The program, called “Bright Stars,” will start its pilot program in the next 30-60 days.

Judge Heath explained it will start in his courtroom, where he conducts anything from paternity to child support and expand from there. This voluntary program is for parents with children from birth to age 3, and there are no financial requirements.

“We want to expand as much as possible as it doesn’t have to be a so called at-risk-child. It could be a child from an affluent home that needs the same kind of parental care,” said Judge Dan Heath.

Right now the program is being funded by a probation user fee from parents who come through the court system. Judge Heath hopes that the community will come together to raise money for this program.

Antoinette Francher Donald, the Director of Planning Programming Research for the Urban League, supports the program and agreed these kids are the most in need.

“We became a part of this because the Urban League advocates for those most vulnerable and who need a good start on education,” said Francher Donald.

The new program center is in the Boys and Girls Club in Fort Wayne, and Joe Jordan, the President and CEO said he is glad to help kids reach their potential.

“We are in the business youth development. Our mission is to inspire all youth to become productive adults, great citizens in our community, and this just adds to what we're doing,” said Jordan.

Judge Heath says there are far too many juveniles going through the court system that could have been saved in their early years, which is what this program will help.








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