Head Start provides an array of services to families of enrolled children.
Family engagement around child development and health
Head Start partners with parents around the health and development of children. Through home visits and social service meetings with parents, Head Start staff discuss the outcomes of child health, developmental and behavioral screenings, and assist parents in accessing family-centered medical, dental or other health-related services or follow-up treatment for their children. Parents are invited to attend Head Start sponsored workshops around child mental health, and Head Start supports parents of children with special needs in understanding and navigating the special education process, and in being advocates for their children. Staff partner with parents around assessing child outcomes in various domains of early childhood education and development, and design and implement individualized activities to support the optimal development of each child.
Support around social services, community resources, and achieving parents’ goals
Head Start works with parents to assure that the basic, fundamental needs of families are met. Staff provide families with information, support and referrals to state and local agencies which can help address a range of fundamental needs in areas such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, public assistance benefits or other critical supports. Additionally, staff work with parents to establish plans for meeting parent-identified goals around personal and family development and achievement, in areas such as obtaining a college degree, becoming a homeowner, making healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking, or other goals.
Parent leadership development
Parents in Head Start are part of a Local Parent Committee affiliated with their child’s Head Start classroom or home-based group. Parents come together for Local Parent Committee meetings to talk about their children, Head Start curriculum and activities, community issues, and family issues. Parents bring to these meetings their knowledge of their own children and the needs of their families, and parents work together to make the Head Start program successful for children and families, to support each other, and to socialize and build community.
Each Local Parent Committee elects one parent delegate and one parent alternate to serve on the Head Start Policy Council. The Policy Council is similar to a school board or “PTO” for the Head Start program, and Policy Council has a role in the development, review and approval of several specific items including, for example, the hiring of new Head Start staff. Policy Council is part of the Head Start “governance structure” that includes the Policy Council, Board of Directors, Executive Director and Head Start Director.
These parent leadership opportunities provide parents with valuable experience in planning, implementation and decision-making around program services, activities, and organizational development. And, these opportunities provide excellent additions to parent résumés and hiring potential, and a perfect springboard for parents to go on to serve on local school boards, PTOs and as advocates within the school system.