In Focus: Head Start/Early Head Start

Dec 16, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Congress Proposes Increased Funding for Essential Child Care and Early Education Programs

By Hannah Matthews

Early this morning, the U.S. House and Senate released an omnibus funding bill for FY 2016 (the fiscal year that began on October 1). Thanks to the budget agreement made earlier this fall, an increase in the overall discretionary budget authority allowed Congress to allocate funds for much-needed investments. Specifically the bill includes the following funding for child care and early education:

  • A $326 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This is the largest increase in annual funding for CCDBG since 2001 and will provide critical funds for states as they move forward on implementation of the CCDBG reauthorization. The bill includes a $127 million set aside for improving the quality of infant-toddler care.
  • A $570 million increase for Head Start, which includes $141 million for a cost of living adjustment for grantees, a $135 million increase for Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships, and $294 million for supplemental funds to grantees to support increased costs of expanding program operating hours, as well as training and technical assistance on expanding hours. This dedicates some funds for the Administration’s recent proposal in the Head Start draft program standards rewrite to require programs to provide full-school-day and full-school-year services. CLASP recommended that implementation of this proposal include sufficient dedicated resources to avoid reduction in the number of children receiving Head Start services.
  • A $15 million increase for Part B preschool grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and a $20 million increase for IDEA Part C grants for infants and their families.
  • Flat funding for the current preschool development grants programs, which allows for a third year of funding for grantees.

The omnibus bill is expected to pass in the House and Senate in the coming days and to be signed by the President. Stay tuned for further CLASP analysis of tax-related and other provisions of the omnibus spending bill. 

Aug 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Head Start Children, Families, Staff, and Programs in 2013

By Christina Walker and Stephanie Schmit

Head Start programs provide poor children and their families with comprehensive early education and support services. Each year, programs are required to submit a Program Information Report (PIR) to the Office of Head Start on participating children, pregnant women, and families, as well as the staff serving the Head Start population.

In 2013, the Head Start program served more than 1.1 million children, approximately 166,000 of whom were under the age of 3, and 15,400 pregnant women through Head Start (HS) preschool, Early Head Start (EHS), and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs combined. HS preschool served 85 percent of all federally funded slots, with EHS and MSHS each serving 12 and 3 percent of slots respectively. The 2013 appropriation for all Head Start programs was just over $8 billion; however, federal budget cuts (known as sequestration) were in effect during this school year, resulting in reduced funding for this and other federal programs. While some Head Start programs managed sequestration by reducing the number of children served, others cut back schedules or made other cuts in their budgets.

The program information data demonstrate how important Head Start services are in the lives of these children and families. In 2013, the PIR data showed that:

  • Seventy-five percent of families accessed at least one family service through their Head Start program. The most frequently accessed services were parent education (50 percent) and health education (47 percent).
  • At the end of their Head Start enrollment, 97 percent of children had continuous access to medical care, 96 percent had health insurance, and 96 percent were up to date on their immunizations.
  • Sixty-three percent of families using Head Start included at least one employed parent, and fifteen percent of families had at least one parent in school or job training.
  • Ninety-four percent of pregnant women enrolled in EHS received prenatal health care and 76 percent received postnatal health care. Additionally, 92 percent of pregnant women had health insurance at the end of the program year, 40 percent received a dental examination, and 31 percent accessed mental health interventions (a decrease of 4 percent from the previous year).
  • In the Head Start Preschool Program, 95 percent of teachers had at least an associate degree (A.A.) in early childhood education or a related field—a 2 percent increase from 2012. In addition, 67 percent of teachers had a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) or higher in early childhood education or a related field—a 5 percent increase from 2012.
  • In the MSHS program, 98 percent of children had a medical home for ongoing medical care and 91 percent had a source for ongoing dental care by the end of the program year. 

Read more about Head Start preschool, Early Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal (new this year) participants, families, and staff. 

View state-by-state Head Start and Early Head Start data through CLASP's unique web-based DataFinder.

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. 

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