One in four children in Cleveland are shown to have some type of lead poisoning before they go to kindergarten. In fact, children under the age of six – the age range in which Head Start serves – are the most at risk for lead poisoning. That is why Brittney Martin, Step Forward’s Head Start Health and Dental Coordinator, felt it was important to coordinate lead testing for the agency’s Head Start children.
Lead, a naturally occurring metal, can harm children and adults when it builds up in the body. Children can be exposed to lead in multiple ways, but most commonly, it affects those who live in older, poorly maintained homes as they can breathe in lead dust or swallow it if it gets on their hands and toys. Exposed mothers can also pass lead to an unborn baby during pregnancy1.
Due to their young age and the rapid development, lead poisoning can cause serious health and development problems for children as they grow. Children with lead poisoning can experience health problems such as anemia, hearing difficulties and slowed growth while also experiencing developmental delays and attention deficit disorder (ADD)1.
Lead’s effect on children is why Martin stressed the importance of testing and treating children for lead poisoning early.
“School readiness begins with health. Children who are healthy are ready to learn and this is the opposite for children who are not healthy,” she explained.
Step Forward's high-quality Head Start program ensures children are prepared to enter kindergarten academically, but the agency also makes sure enrolled children are healthy. Step Forward Head Start partners with Cleveland Clinic’s mobile health unit, which provides lead and health screenings, and with Case Western University's dental school to provide dental screenings enrolled children.
Head Start's nutrition program also helps fight the effects of lead. Head Start students are provided with healthy nutritious meals and snacks including foods with calcium, vitamin C and iron that help prevent lead from being absorbed into the body1.
When asked what she would say to parents who may not be able to keep up with their children’s health checkups, Martin encouraged families to enroll with Step Forward.
“We have the resources for you, we want to screen children as soon as possible and get them the treatment they need. We’re here for you,” she said.
Learn more about enrolling your child in Head Start here.
Step Forward Head Start is hiring! The agency is offering a sign-on bonus of $1,000 for full time employees and $500 for part-time employees.
Positions include teachers, family service workers, nutrition aides and more. Step Forward Head Start is looking for education staff passionate about preparing young students for the future and helping them develop a love for learning early. Take a step toward a new fulfilling career today! Learn more and apply to open positions here.
Lead poisoning prevention (2022) ECLKC. Available at: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/physical-health/article/lead-poisoning-prevention (Accessed: January 13, 2023).