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July 2000Vol. 1, No. 5Grants Aim to Strengthen Families, Communities

A public/private partnership will bestow more than $8 million in grants to strengthen the families and communities of very young children.

The Free to Grow national demonstration program will award grants through local Head Start agencies. The long-term goal of the Free to Grow program is to reduce children's vulnerability to substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors as they grow older. The program is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the national Head Start program, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Foundation has earmarked $8 million to support the program. Half that sum will fund 4-year matching grants of approximately $200,000 to up to 20 Head Start agencies. The other half will support a national evaluation of the project. The Justice Department also will contribute funds to support the evaluation component.

Communities selected for grants must choose from among four Free to Grow models developed during a 5-year pilot involving five geographically diverse Head Start programs and supported by the foundation, the National Head Start Bureau, and the National Head Start Association.

The Free to Grow models all rest on the development of formal partnerships among local Head Start agencies and other community agencies and institutions. At minimum, sites must establish partnerships with neighborhood schools and local law enforcement agencies. Technical assistance will be provided by the Free to Grow National Technical Assistance Center housed at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

As the first step in the application process, interested parties must submit letters of intent by August 15. Awards will be made in May 2001. For details on the program, contact:

Lori Levine
Deputy Director
Free to Grow
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University
60 Haven Ave., Apt. 1D
New York, NY 10032
Phone: 212-304-6418
Fax: 212-304-6420