MountainStar Family Relief NurseryArticle from The Bulletin

$448,000 grant will fund the preschool for three years

A new grant will give MountainStar Family Relief Nursery the funds to open a preschool program in February for victims of child abuse and neglect in Bend.

The three-year, $448,000 Central Oregon Health Council grant will allow the nonprofit to start a preschool program for 22 students. MountainStar Family Relief Nursery, one of 32 relief nurseries in the state, aims to prevent child abuse and neglect by providing therapy and other services for toddlers and babies who are victims of abuse, according to the organization’s website, and the new preschool will allow the nonprofit to continue such services for children who are too young to enter kindergarten.

“It’s a lot of money,” said Executive Director Tim Rusk. “It’ll allow us to serve 3- and 4-year-olds for three years.”

Students will attend the preschool two days a week for three hours a day, and the program will combine a preschool curriculum with therapeutic services that address the needs of victims of abuse.

“When children experience trauma or have a high stress childhood, their whole neurology becomes attuned toward chaos,” Rusk said. “We’re structuring our classroom to anticipate that and work with kids who have these experiences.”

“The 3-to-1 student-teacher ratio will be ideal for children who need more focused instruction as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond,” said Donna Mills, executive director of the Central Oregon Health Council, a public-private entity created in 2011 that aims to improve the health of residents in the region as well as reduce healthcare costs.

The free preschool program will enroll children who have graduated from MountainStar’s therapy programs, Rusk said, as well as qualifying children who have never been clients. Currently the program is only going to be available at MountainStar’s Bend facility, but expansion to the nonprofit’s sites in Madras, Prineville and La Pine is a possibility in the future.

“We’ll start here in Bend where most of the children are — the communities are much smaller in Madras and Prineville,” he said. “Once we get going with this hopefully we’ll be able to sustain it and expand. We’re working with a high-need population, and this type of program has been documented to reduce neglect and abuse by 70 percent.”

For enrollment information, contact Nydia Acosta at 541-322-6820 or NydiaA@mtstar.org


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