Maine Sheriff Says Head Start Cuts Crime
SEARSPORT, Maine – According to a statement released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story visited the Searsport Head Start Center and announced that Maine law enforcement leaders are starting a statewide tour of the state’s Head Start Centers to raise awareness of the crime prevention benefits of Head Start.
Sheriff Story is a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Maine, a bipartisan anti-crime organization of 72 police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys, other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors. It is part of a national organization of more than 2,500 law enforcement members. Mary Small, state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Maine, joined Sheriff Story in the visit.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Maine estimates that by providing high-quality Head Start to all eligible at-risk Maine children, as many as 150 children could be prevented from committing crimes when they grow up.
“When I see the bright faces of Head Start kids eager to learn and get along with other kids, I know they have a head start in growing up to become healthy and responsible adults,” said Story. “If we don’t make Head Start available to at-risk kids now, I’ll be arresting too many kids when they’re adults later.”
Over 1,400 violent crimes are committed and more than 8,500 kids are arrested each year in Maine. Research analyzed by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Maine shows that at-risk kids who attend Head Start or other quality preschool programs are dramatically less likely to commit future crime. One national survey of Head Start graduates found that adults who attended Head Start as children were nearly 10 percent less likely to be arrested or charged with a crime than their siblings who did not attend Head Start.
Yet, the crime prevention benefits of Head Start do not reach all Maine children. Nationally, one-third of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds are unable to access Head Start due to a lack of funding. Seventy percent-or 8,000 children-of Maine’s at-risk kids who are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start are shut out of classrooms and programs.
The Searsport center is one of four of Waldo County Head Start run by the Waldo Community Action Partners. It is one of the oldest programs in the country as it started the first year of Head Start in 1965. The centers serve 182 children ages three and four in Belfast, Searsport, Unity and Winterport. The Searsport Center has 40 children.
A landmark study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool program randomly assigned at-risk kids to attend a high-quality preschool program similar to Head Start. By the age of 40, the grown-up children who did not attend the preschool were four times more likely to have been arrested for drug felonies and nearly twice as likely to be arrested for multiple violent crimes. Chicago’s government-funded Child-Parent Centers found that at-risk kids left out of the program were 70 percent more likely to have been arrested for a violent crime before their 18th birthday compared to similar kids who participated in the program. This program will have prevented 33,000 crimes by the time the participants reach adulthood.
“Head Start gives kids the heads up to succeed in school and life,” said Small. “Maine’s law enforcement leaders lend their support to Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to increase federal dollars to reach all eligible kids in Maine.”
To reap the best crime-fighting benefits from Head Start, Small said that Maine needs to improve the training and education of teachers. Several proposals are coming before the U.S. Congress that would require 50 percent of Head Start teachers to have a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2011.
For more information, contact Mary Small at (207) 443-8880; cell, (207) 751-7518 or go to www.fightcrime.org.
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