It’s been a busy two years as the former Empowerment agencies in Jasper, Marion and Poweshiek counties merged into the new JMP Early Childhood Area.
JMP stands for Jasper, Marion and Poweshiek counties. The organization is calling itself “Jump,” leaving out the “U” in its acronym.
“The merger committee has met for over two years working toward the goal of a combined board,” JMP Treasurer Dustin Smith of Poweshiek County said. “Representatives from each of the three counties have been at the table. It was difficult at first, to think of ourselves as one united area and not three separate counties. Our recent budget deliberations show we have made amazing progress in truly being united.”
The merger was mandated by the Iowa General Assembly as a means of cutting down to cost to administer and distribute state funding for programs.
“A few years ago, the state legislature mandated that counties with fewer than 5,000 children under the age of 5 merge with surrounding areas,” John Leeper of Marion County, chairman of the new JMP region, said. “It’s been a long process, but ... the JMP ECI area is able to fund the first grants.”
That has also been accomplished now. Nearly $850,000 was awarded to programs throughout the three-county area. In Jasper County, that includes:
• Jasper County ISU Extension — to provide technical assistance, support and education to early care and education providers in the JMP region;
• Jasper County Child Abuse Prevention, Parents as Teachers program -- to provide family support, information, instruction and encouragement to parents and families in Jasper County;
• Skiff Medical Center, Jasper County Public Health Nursing — to provide family support and education through home visits for families with children ages 0-5 and lactation support and education for nursing mothers and their newborn children in Jasper County; and
• Newton YMCA’s Get Started Preschool — to provide a learning environment for low-income children to increase school readiness.
This year’s grant awards were submitted for approval to the Iowa Department of Management, the state department which houses the Early Childhood Iowa program. Each year, the General Assembly appropriates funds for programming and area providers submit proposals, all of which must meet the new board’s vision for the area.
Not only did three entirely distinct and separate organizations have to come together to agree on board structure, office locations, and meeting places — all without knowing how much funding they would receive as of July 1 from the state — but they also had to continue to do the work they have individually done since the late-1990s.
Jasper County Empowerment had a mission of helping children up to 5 years old and their families. But, as of July 1, along with the merger and name change to JMP Early Childhood Area, the organization has an expanded mission, according to new board vice-chairman Chris Law.
“The former Empowerment areas in the JMP region became part of a newly merged area whose mission is that all children from prenatal to school age and their families will be healthy, safe and ready to learn,” Law said.
As part of the merger process, a new, region-wide community needs assessment was drawn up, based on input from focus groups in each county. Regional priorities were identified, including:
• access to quality health providers,
• access to quality preschools, and
• access to quality child care and family education.
All programs funded by JMP Early Childhood Area must concentrate on at least one of these areas. For more information about JMP and its funded services, contact JMP Director Nicole Brua-Behrens at (641) 236-5518.
Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.