Dean Pushing Big Apple 'Baby College'

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:

Fmr. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) was bypassed on Monday for secretary of Health and Human Services. He stepped down as chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Jan. 21, 2009.Ferdous Al-Faruque/ ABC News

Howard Dean's hopes of joining the Cabinet were dashed for a second time on Monday but the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has not been deterred from pushing early childhood intervention, an issue he was hoping to champion as secretary of Health and Human Services.

"If I had been in Obama's Cabinet, I would have been delighted to work on this," Dean told ABC News. "Since I didn't get in HHS, which would have had a lot to do with this, I'm going to just do it."

Dean's Monday interview with ABC News was conducted by phone while Obama was formally announcing that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) was his choice to lead HHS after Obama's original pick, former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., bowed out over unpaid taxes.

Now that his tenure has ended at the DNC, Dean is working to launch a school readiness program in New York City. The integrated services are expected to include home-nurse visits, parenting workshops, day care, early childhood education, and after-school programs.

"We found a school, there are some wonderful people associated with it, it has especially strong leadership, there are social services in the district," he said. "So, all the ingredients are there. And now the question is: can we coordinate it and can I come up with some money so that nobody gets left behind?"

To learn how to get this project off the ground, Dean has consulted Geoffrey Canada, the president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), a multi-faceted anti-poverty program which includes something called "Baby College," a place where pregnant women and their significant others receive counseling on how to care for newborns.

Dean, who grew up in New York on Park Avenue, is not the only one who has looked to the HCZ program as a model.

While campaigning for president, Obama proposed replicating the Harlem program in 20 cities across the country. He said the federal government would provide half of the funding with the rest of the money coming from philanthropies and businesses.

The budget blueprint which Obama unveiled last week  follows up on his campaign promise: it includes money to support the creation of "Promise Neighborhoods" in which schools and community organizations would collaborate to provide broad support to families and children in high-poverty areas.

While Dean would have enjoyed working on Obama's "Promise Neighborhood" program, the former Vermont governor is hoping that the project he is spearheading in New York can become a useful model.

"This doesn't get you to the 20 cities," said Dean. "But what you need is a very successful demonstration project."

"I've already spoken with (Education Secretary) Arne Duncan," said Dean. "He thinks this is all a great idea."

Dean first became interested in early childhood intervention while trying to get a handle on prison costs as governor. Under his Success by Six program, every child in Vermont, whose parents ask for it, gets a visit within two weeks of their birth from a social worker or school nurse.

The purpose of the visits is to help parents cope with the birth of a new child.

"It's emotional deficits, its teenagers having kids, its low educational aspirations, its the disorganization that comes from intense poverty," said Dean.

He likens the initiative to Head Start, which offers services to children between the ages of 3 and 5, but says there is an advantage to working with even younger children and their parents.

"Most kids are hard-wired by the time they are three," said Dean.

In addition to promoting early childhood education, Dean's post-DNC plans include joining the government affairs practice at McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP. He also plans to promote health-care reform through Democracy for America and democratic institutions worldwide through the National Democratic Institute.

ABC News' Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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