Teen mother, Michaela kisses the cheek of her son Liam, in front of their mobile home in Russellville, Ark. Save the Children brings its expertise in improving educational opportunities and outcomes for kids in underserved communities to its federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which promote school readiness and social and emotional development for kids in low-income families. Photo credit: Eli Murray/Save the Children, May 2017.

Teen mother, Michaela kisses the cheek of her son Liam, in front of their mobile home in Russellville, Ark. Save the Children brings its expertise in improving educational opportunities and outcomes for kids in underserved communities to its federally-funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which promote school readiness and social and emotional development for kids in low-income families.

Red Noses Helped an Early Childhood Development Center

Arkansas Boy, Mom Blossom with Support from Save the Children Early Head Start Center 

These days, it doesn’t take much for 7-month-old Liam to quickly turn his head to the right toward his favorite daily diversion – his cat, Kane. 

But a few months ago, this wasn’t the case. Liam only looked to his left, slept to his left and used his left hand for most activities. Liam’s mother Michaela believed he simply favored that side. 

It was Tiffany Lutrell, the family coordinator at a Save the Children Early Head Start Center, who recognized that Liam had infant torticollis – a condition where a baby’s neck muscle is tight, causing the head to tilt toward one side. 

“Tiffany explained it to me and we got it diagnosed, and they helped me get the treatment Liam needed,” Michaela said.  

Save the Children’s Early Head Start Center is a rare resource for low-income families in this small Arkansas community, which struggles with poverty and unemployment. The Center offers resources for parents, and care for infants through preschool-age children – offering an opportunity for children to gain essential early learning and social skills.    

“When I was pregnant with Liam, they gave me so much information that I would have never known,” Michaela said about the Head Start Center. During pregnancy the Center offered guidance on maintaining a healthy pregnancy. After Liam arrived, they gave her tried and true tips on how to care for her newborn son. Information that’s invaluable to any inexperienced parent – and especially a teen mom like Michaela. 

As soon as Liam was old enough to begin participating in the early education program at the Head Start center, Michaela had the time she needed to further her education. She got her GED (General Equivalency Diploma) and began thinking about her career aspirations. This led to Michaela lending a hand, when needed, at the Head Start Center.  

“Michaela would help in the classroom as an extra set of hands. She would read to the children, play with them, fold laundry – whatever was needed,” Tiffany said. 

Meanwhile, day-to-day, the new mother would learn about and discuss Liam’s new development goals with his teachers. The teachers told her Liam was a bit behind in a few development areas, including some fine motor, social and emotional skills, and they helped make sure a specialist visited the center regularly to help him strengthen those skills. 

Michaela has since become a program aide at the Head Start center, and is working toward getting certified as an early education teacher. “She’s very eager, very ready to learn,” Tiffany said about Michaela’s efforts at the center. “It’s coming naturally to her.” 

Just like it’s becoming more natural for Liam to look to his right, thanks to the skills and development he’s achieved at Head Start.

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