All Head Start services are customized to the individual child's developmental level (including children with disabilities) and consider each child's temperament, interests, and learning style. Head Start programs also respect the culture, language, and family of each child.
Head Start provides children with a variety of learning experiences. Head Start offers many opportunities for children to express themselves through art, music, movement, and storytelling. Children participate in indoor and outdoor play, and learn about books, words, numbers, and the world around them. Children are encouraged to communicate their ideas and feelings, and to develop self-confidence and the ability to get along with others. Head Start programs also work with the children and parents to help them make a successful transition to kindergarten or elementary school.
Infants, toddlers, and pregnant women receive specialized care in Early Head Start. Early Head Start programs provide services developed specifically for infants and toddlers from birth to age three and pregnant women. Early Head Start staff have special training to enable them to create an environment where infants and toddlers can flourish and develop important skills such as self-awareness, independence, and self-expression.
Head Start helps foster secure relationships between children and well-trained staff. Head Start's policy of having one trained teacher for each group of four children or infants helps programs create secure relationships between children and staff. This gives Head Start children and infants the sense of trust and emotional security they need to explore their environment and develop new skills. Head Start extends services to children and parents in the home. Head Start staff make home visits, especially to the homes of parents with newborns and older infants, to help strengthen parenting skills and to hear and respond to parental concerns.
Head Start responds to children with disabilities. Special training is provided to Head Start staff to help them work with disabled children. More than 10% of Head Start and Early Head Start children have special needs, and these children are included in all program activities. Head Start staff also work closely with community agencies and other programs for young children with disabilities to ensure that children with special needs obtain the care they need.
Head Start programs focus on each child's basic health needs as well as the healthy behaviors and practices that can prevent illness and enhance a child's lifelong well-being.
Head Start children receive medical and dental care. Head Start recognizes the importance of identifying and addressing health problems early in a child's life so that they do not interfere with a child's learning and development. The program arranges comprehensive health care for every child. This includes a complete health examination with a screening for chronic or disabling conditions, a vision and hearing test, a dental checkup, and immunizations. Follow-ups are scheduled for children with any indication of problems. Early Head Start programs provide crucial prenatal care for pregnant women as well as training in the care of newborns. These and other Early Head Start services, such as nutrition counseling, medical and dental examinations, and mental health services, continue long after delivery.
Head Start has strict standards for safety and hygiene. Staff at Head Start programs are trained in CPR and other first-aid techniques. In addition, all programs are required to have procedures in place to prevent injuries and to respond to emergencies. Further, all programs must comply with strict guidelines for toy safety and cleanliness.
Head Start provides nourishing meals and promotes breast-feeding. In most programs, children are served one hot meal and a nutritious snack each day. A trained nutritionist in each program helps ensure that all Head Start meals are balanced and that the foods are culturally appropriate for the local community and reflect the needs of the families. In Early Head Start, careful provisions are made to meet the nutritional needs of infants.
Head Start promotes mental health. Head Start staff work hard to promote the mental health of each child and family. Head Start staff have access to a mental health professional to help them identify children's mental health needs so that treatment referrals can be made if services are necessary.
Head Start staff approach work with a family as a team effort, from the beginning process of setting goals to
making policy and program decisions. Head Start programs also actively collaborate with community agencies and organizations to establish a network of support that families can draw on during and after Head Start.
Parents are encouraged to become involved in every aspect of Head Start. Parents and family members work in partnership with Head Start staff to set goals for their child's and family's development. An individualized plan is designed to assist them in achieving their family goals. Parents are encouraged to share their ideas and opinions, to visit the programs, and to participate in Parent Committee and other group activities. Parents can attend classes and workshops to learn about parenting, nutrition, safety practices, preparing for jobs, and many other topics. Parents also have an important voice in program decision-making by serving as elected members of their Head Start program's Policy Council. Head Start programs can help parents obtain educational, literacy, or job training. They also may offer parents opportunities for employment. Many parents serve as volunteers or as aides to Head Start teachers and staff. Some are cooks, storytellers, or play supervisors. When parents are qualified for Head Start jobs, they may receive preference in hiring. (Thirty percent of Head Start staff are parents of current or former Head Start children.) Staff also help parents find employment in other fields.
Head Start is an active partner with the community. Head Start programs take an active role in their communities and collaborate with many other organizations to enable Head Start children and families to receive services that are beyond the scope of Head Start. Head Start community partners include health and mental health providers, agencies that provide services to children with disabilities, child protective services, child care organizations, local schools, businesses, and other service groups. Community partnerships enable Head Start staff to refer parents to many community resources that are available to assist them in achieving their family goals.
Head Start has lead the way in improving child development services. Head Start has played a major role in focusing the attention of the nation on the importance of early childhood development. The program has had a dramatic impact on the delivery of child development and child care services and on the expansion of community activities for young children. In addition to improving the lives of children, Head Start has had a positive impact on parents and families. Many parents have earned the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and have been hired as Head Start staff or have found employment in other early childhood settings.
Head Start continues to respond to the needs of low-income families. Today, Head Start is reaching out even more to serve the needs of young children from low-income families. Through Early Head Start, programs have expanded to include services for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. To help programs run more efficiently and effectively, Head Start has implemented additional management controls and new training programs. Many Head Start programs are working with agencies and child care organizations in their communities to find ways to deliver full-day and full-year Head Start
quality services to children of low-income parents who are working or in job training. Head Start is also continuing to build vital partnerships with a variety of community organizations to help strengthen families and fulfill family needs that are beyond Head Start's capabilities alone. Head Start community partnerships ensure that the benefits to the child and family continue far beyond Head Start.
Head Start relies on people like you. To continue to succeed, Head Start needs people of all backgrounds, training, and ages. High school and college students, senior citizens, business people, parents, and community leaders can assist in many ways, from helping out in the classroom and training other volunteers to renovating buildings and playgrounds. Community organizations also play a vital part in the success of Head Start. Programs rely on partnerships with community organizations to provide many specialized services such as medical and dental examinations or educational materials.
Call us at 482-6955 if you would like to refer a child or family for Head Start services or if you would like to partner with SIUE Head Start to serve the children and families of St. Clair County, Illinois.
Head Start is required to complete two assessments that ensure programs provide high quality, comprehensive services to the children and families being served. Every year a self-assessment is conducted that allows staff to look closely at their programs and make improvements based on internal findings and recommendations. Every three years, a Federal Review is conducted. For both reviews, the SIUE Head Start program uses the PRISM document.To learn more about PRISM, go to http://www.air.org/hsware/prism/index.htm.