Free to Grow Special Report: Barre, Vermont

Free to Grow: Building Strength in America's Communities

This report by the Free to Grow National Program Office at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University shows how the Free to Grow model was integrated into the local Head Start program in Barre, Vt., decreasing the risk factors for substance abuse and strengthening families.

“When that first Free To Grow RFP came in,” Miller recalls, “I harrumphed and put it in the trash.”  She didn’t want to try something that they were already doing. But several months later, Miller looked again.

“One of our staff members died of a barbiturate overdose,” she recalled. It wasn’t that CVCAC staff didn’t know about drug and alcohol abuse. It was that they had danced around the issue; or, as one staffer who had been part of a Head Start family as a child, put it, “Head Start personnel would come into the house, stepping over the beer cans on the floor, ignoring the fundamental problem.”

Suddenly, the significance of the Free To Grow model struck home: Children could be helped by decreasing the risk factors they lived with at home and in their neighborhoods.