Building Blocks gets big boost


Russell Child receives grants worth more than $2 million for programs.

Russell Child receives grants worth more than $2 million for programs.


When most people think of the Russell Childhood Development Center, they think of its Tiny-K Early Intervention Services program. But the nonprofit organization does much more than that. And thanks to a sizable grant the center recently received, it will be able to continue doing so.

Four block grants totalling a little more than $2 million have been awarded to the program. The money will be allocated to the agency's Building Blocks programs in Dodge City, Ulysses, Stanton County and a combined 15-county service area, Deanna Berry, executive director at RCDC said.

The funds are tobacco settlement dollars the state of Kansas sets aside for children's programming. The money is overseen by the Kansas Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund, whose members are appointed by the governor. The cabinet made some changes to the fund this year, Berry said, and so the center wrote four separate grants.

"There's a grant for Dodge City, one for Ulysses and one for Stanton County," Berry said. "What we did with our fourth grant is, we had had funding for several years for Smart Start for multiple counties, including Finney and Seward, and a lot of our other partners, so we wrote a fourth grant that's a combined grant that continued to fund a lot of the services in the other counties we serve."

Of the $2,025,472 total grant the organization received, Dodge City received $689,760, Stanton County received $234,550, Ulysses received $250,640 and the remaining $850,522 was allocated to the 15 counties in RCDC's service area, which includes Clark, Finney, Ford, Gray, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Meade, Morton, Scott, Stevens, Stanton and Wichita.

According to its website, RCDC's Building Blocks program uses a systems approach to improve outcomes for young children and their families. Evidence-based practices provide for quality, early learning opportunities, essential family and caregiver supports, and adequate provider resources to enhance early literacy and overall child development.

Building Blocks has four programs — Family Place Libraries, Kid Crew,¬ Learn & Play Parent Child Groups and Triple P Positive Parenting Program.

The Family Place Libraries model emphasizes parenting collection and resource development, a discovery area within the children's department that offers pre-literacy and early learning opportunities, and the signature program, the Parent Child Workshop. That is being offered at the Finney County Public Library, one of RCDC's partner agencies.

"We're actually funding other partner agencies to do some things. We're not necessarily trying to do it all ourselves," Berry said.

Kid Crew is offered through the Area Mental Health Center, now known as Compass Behavioral Health. Kid Crew in Finney County is funded primarily through the LAUNCH grant. The RCDC provides support, such as consulting services and other programs aimed at assisting child care providers and educators in carrying out their goal to offer high-quality settings in which children can learn and grow academically, socially and emotionally.

"So we're not actually funding Finney County's because the AMHC had another grant done before. We may end up picking it up down the road, but we're currently funding that program in three of the counties we serve," Berry said.

The Learn and Play project is offered in 28 communities in southwest Kansas and provides parent/child activity times for children birth to 5.

"It's twice a month, and it's times that parents can come, so we have a little curriculum, but the parents actually do things with their child, and then they can take it home. All of this is about getting kids screened and referred if they are having delays," Berry said.

Birth to age 5 is a critical stage, developmentally speaking, she addded.

"Their little brains develop now, and if we can get them off to a good start, they're going to do better. Our challenge is going to be to prove it with the data," she said.

The RCDC's Triple P Positive Parenting Program offers clear and simple ideas to help parents manage problem behavior or prevent problems from developing in the first place. The program is offered both as group sessions and as one-on-one consultations.

"It helps parents see that how they behave affects the behavior of their child," she said.

Last year, the Family Place Libraries, Learn and Play Parent Child Group and the Triple P Positive Parenting Program served 2,655 children. The cabinet overseeing the Kansas Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund requires that children's programming organizations provide data showing individual outcomes achieved from participation in the programs it is funding.

"That's the big thing, is data," Jeanne Billings, grant coordinator at RCDC, said, adding that she believes the RCDC's programs will become examples to other agencies in the state.

"We already have some looking at how we're doing the Triple P program, and we're going to help them get started," Billings said.

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