In Focus: Head Start/Early Head Start

Jul 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Meeting Children’s Mental Health Needs in Child Care and Early Education

By Christine Johnson-Staub

More than half of children under age 18 have been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder, according to a new report by Child Trends and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. While the authors make the case for reforming health and mental health services to increase access for children and youth, they also present broader recommendations to support child wellness, emphasizing healthy child-adult relationships, along with positive routines and practices for children. Their approach has implications for services, family engagement and support, and professional development in early childhood settings.

  • Serving children in high-quality child care settings that offer comprehensive services to families is important both to offer children consistent care and routines, and to identify children and families in need of support. High-quality early childhood programs ensure that young children access developmental screenings that may uncover potential mental health problems. According to early findings of the National Survey of Early Care and Education presented at the recent Head Start National Research Conference, almost all (97.9 percent) Head Start centers offer assistance with developmental screening, which helps identify mental health concerns. Nearly all (88.5 percent) public pre-kindergarten programs offer screening, as do 73.4 percent of private early childhood programs.
  • Caring for children with family stress and potential mental health concerns, as well as related behavior challenges, is an urgent training need for the early childhood field. One approach to building the capacity of early childhood staff is the mental health consultation model. An increasing number of states offer programs serving young children some kind of mental health, health, or behavioral consultation, in which the consultant can provide training and guidance in identification of mental health concerns, referral to and coordination of follow-up diagnosis and treatment, and strategies to support the child’s development and learning. 
  • Finally, the report suggests that two-generation approaches using effective family engagement strategies  provide parents with the skills they need to manage their children’s behavior and mental health needs, while also potentially identifying needs of the adult for mental health or other services. These types of two-generation approaches can be particularly successful in strengthening the capacity of both parents and children. Parent and child wellbeing are inextricably linked to one another, and challenges to either can interfere with family economic success and positive child outcomes.

Policymakers can support child wellness and increase access to mental health services by looking for opportunities to incorporate comprehensive services and related supports into their child care quality, professional development, and financing systems. Expanding access to high-quality programs like Early Head Start and Head Start can also make mental health services more available to those children who are most vulnerable.  While supporting child wellness and increasing access to mental health services is a challenge, high-quality child care and early education settings provide an opportunity to identify and serve young children at risk, while building and supporting the family’s capacity to meet their mental health needs. 

Jul 9, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

A Two-Generation Approach to Policy

By Stephanie Schmit

In a forum earlier today, co-hosted by CLASP and the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), panelists discussed two-generation policy solutions to reduce poverty. Panelists highlighted local innovation, as well as opportunities for large-scale federal and state policy changes to improve educational opportunities from early childhood to community college to workforce development. With diverse perspectives and experiences, the panelists shared a common vision that the circumstances of poor families are too important and too widespread to continue our current public policies without rethinking how to serve families as a whole, rather than adults and children independently. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to take action.

A new CLASP brief examines major federal and state policy areas for large-scale change that better support families as a whole. Two-generation policies reflect strong research findings that the well-being of parents is inextricably linked to children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. And at the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. Despite growth of local two-generation programs, which combine services for parents and children, little attention has been given to two-generation approaches to large-scale policy change. These opportunities include:

  • Pair education and training pathways with child care and early education. Identifying opportunities for better policy choices that would make it easier to pair education and training pathways with early education would help both parents and children. This would require rethinking program design throughout many policy areas, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), workforce development, higher education, child care, and Head Start.
  • Expand early childhood home visiting programs through state and federal investments, and seize other opportunities to help parents and young children in their very vulnerable early years. Home visiting programs offer a variety of voluntary, family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children in the families’ homes. Many home visiting programs have a two-generation approach, focusing on the parenting skills and needs of parents while providing child development activities, although this varies tremendously depending upon the model used.
  • Improve child care policies for both children and parents. Continuity and stability of care can improve children’s early education as well as adults’ work stability.  Removing work schedule verification requirements and allowing for broader authorizations can make child care assistance more usable for parents with work schedule challenges.  Linking child care enrollment policies with those of other public benefits can also reduce the burden on parents to get and keep subsidies.
  • Improve labor policies for low-income workers.  A comprehensive package of improvements in labor policies, including an increase in the minimum wage, advance notice of job schedules, the right to request and receive flexible and predictable job schedules, minimum hours, and paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, would support low-income workers in their role as parents.
  • Expand access to health care and mental health treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers a game-changing opportunity. The ACA tears down major barriers to depression treatment and provides many mothers with health insurance for the first time. The benefit package includes mental health (and substance abuse) treatment, access to primary and preventive care, as well as, prevention screening and quality measures to target depression.

Read the full brief here>>

Watch the webcast here>>

Jun 6, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Expanding High-Quality Child Care for Babies: ACF Releases Funding Opportunity

By Hannah Matthews

Today, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) launched a historic funding opportunity to advance high-quality, comprehensive infant and toddler child care across the country. With $500 million available in Congress' FY 2014 spending bill, Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership and Early Head Start (EHS) Expansion grants will leverage EHS and child care dollars to expand access to full-day services for poor, young children. Funding will be made available within each state based on the number of young children in poverty. 

Eligible applicants may apply for funding through three opportunities:

  1. EHS-CC Partnerships. New or existing EHS grantees will partner with center-based child care or family child care homes to provide full-day, high-quality infant-toddler care that meets EHS standards.  Applicants proposing EHS-CC partnerships will receive the highest funding priority.
  2. Non-Partnership EHS Expansion. New or existing EHS grantees may expand the number of slots in traditional EHS centers or family child care homes. Funds may not be used to expand the EHS home-based model. Applicants will be expected to propose providing full-day, full-year services for a minimum of 48 weeks. Non-Partnership Expansion applicants must justify why an EHS-CC partnership is not the best approach for their community.
  3. Combination EHS Expansion and Partnerships.  New or existing grantees may expand the number of slots in EHS programs and also partner with center-based or family child care. Applicants proposing a combination of EHS expansion and EHS-CC partnership will receive priority over straight expansion models.

All grant funds, including EHS-CC Partnerships, Non-Partnership EHS Expansion, and Combination EHS Expansion and Partnerships may be used to serve children from birth to 36 months in center-based settings and children from birth to 48 months in family child care settings. All applicants must consider a birth to five continuum of high-quality early care and education in developing their proposals.  

All grantees are required to leverage existing local resources and collaborate with community organizations to provide the full array of comprehensive services to young children. EHS-CC Partnership grantees must ensure that a minimum of 25 percent of slots are filled by children who receive child care subsidies and are also EHS eligible. Applicants who propose filling at least 40 percent of their slots with children receiving subsidies will receive additional points.

Applicants who propose serving children who reside in high-poverty zip codes and federally designated Promise Zones will receive additional points.

CLASP will continue to review the funding opportunity and provide supporting information and resources. Applications for funding are due by August 20. The complete funding opportunity announcement is available here.

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