MILTON - Applications for enrollment in high-quality early childhood education programs in Northumberland County are now being accepted.

The Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) administers three programs in Northumberland County - Early Head Start, Head Start and Pre-K Counts.

Early Head Start provides comprehensive education, nutrition and other health services for children from birth to age 3, as well as for expectant mothers. Services are provided in the home or at the Early Head Start Center in Stonington.

Head Start and Pre-K Counts are kindergarten readiness programs for 3-, 4- and 5-year olds who are not yet enrolled in school. Head Start centers are located in Coal Township, Herndon, Milton, Mount Carmel, Sunbury and Turbotville. Pre-K Counts is available to residents of Line Mountain, Milton Area and Shikellamy school districts.

"These programs offer high-quality early learning experiences to young children at an optimal time in their development," said Jan Salwocki, CSIU early childhood program supervisor.

"Children who have the benefit of attending an early childhood program are better prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Being enrolled in a high-quality early learning program can also benefit a child through his or her whole school career," added Salwocki.

Nutritious meals and snacks are provided for children enrolled in center-based programs. While there is no transportation provided for Pre-K Counts participants, limited transportation is available for children in Early Head Start and Head Start.

Services are available at no cost to eligible children and families and are coordinated with other agencies to meet all needs of children, including those with disabilities.

Participants must meet federal income guidelines, and are selected based on child and family needs and circumstances. Parents who became unemployed recently also may be eligible.

All interested parents are encouraged to apply by calling the CSIU at 570-523-1155, ext. 2240 or visiting www.csiu.org/EarlyEd.

Pre-K Counts is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Early Head Start and Head Start is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.