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Tribal Head Start Programs Get a Boost From Indian Health Services
by Pam Chwedyk Minority Nurse Writer
To intensify and expand its effort to assist tribal Head Start programs, the Indian Health Service (IHS) has named Orietta Cuellar, B.A., member of the Absentee-Shawnee tribe and a descendent of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, as director of the IHS Head Start Program. This key leadership position will coordinate the collaborative efforts of the IHS, other federal agencies and the respective tribal governments and their service programs to meet the health and safety needs of the Indian Head Start participants.
Cuellar has over 15 years experience working with Head Start in various capacities. She has also worked in the Children’s Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services, and has managed a national crisis nursery and respite care program. Her expertise includes child welfare service, foster care and adoption assistance.
The American Indian Program Branch, Agency for Children and Families, provides grants to Indian tribes that enable the 180 Indian Head Start and Early Head Start programs to provide services to American Indian and Alaskan Native children and families. The national Head Start programs are located in 27 states and serve over 22,000 students age 4-5 years of age. Since the program has recently expanded to serve children under six years of age, major increases in the number of Head Start programs are anticipated.
“The Head Start experience can prepare each child for a lifetime of success by providing a healthy, safe and stimulating environment,” notes Cuellar. “The IHS Head Start Program will provide training and technical assistance to tribal Head Start Programs to assist them in accomplishing [their] goals.”