Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Head Start-Operated Full-Day Services: Successes, Challenges, and Issues

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Head Start-Operated Full-Day Services: Successes, Challenges, and Issues

Article excerpt

Abstract. Researchers conducted focus groups in three Minnesota Head Start programs that provide full-day services. The purpose of this descriptive study was to understand how these programs operated, the strengths and challenges of full-day Head Start programs, and how working parents and those on public assistance described these services. Findings include parents' satisfaction with various models of full-day services and parents' needs for extended hour care, transportation, information about full-day options, and child care assistance. Attributes of successful models include guaranteed fiscal support to programs, long-term partnerships with community programs, equipment, supplies, and renovation funds for child care programs, and Head Start mentoring and support personnel to work with family and center providers. Full-day models coupled with postsecondary training opportunities provide a viable means to help families obtain family self-sufficiency. Challenges and issues include concerns about the quality of some child care programs, inadequate fiscal and Head Start staff support for child care partners, and lack of understanding of the differences between Head Start and child care. These findings are important because Head Start agencies, recognizing the need for full-day services, are now developing and implementing these services, and the three programs provide several models, each with strengths, weaknesses, and issues.

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I get up at 5; get my older kid up at 6--she leaves for school at 7. I then get my little one up. On a home visit day, the [Head Start] teacher comes at 8:30; my little one would be up at 8. She should be dressed, fed, teeth brushed. But if she is not and is running behind, we go through it together. We have already planned together the week before what we want to accomplish and 9 times out of 10 it works, unless something else comes up. The one and a half hours that the teacher is there, is really short. After the teacher leaves, we will play a little longer so it isn't an abrupt end. Then I pick my kids up at 11 at night. It is a long day for me. I work Tuesday nights and Friday nights. Then Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday I am home in the evenings. But they still complain when I have to go to work.

This working mother juggles long days of work and parenting. She, like 90 percent of Head Start parents, earns less than the federal poverty guideline for her family. In this single-parent and two-child family, the annual income is below $13,000 (1). In 1993, 33 percent of families enrolled in Head Start had at least one full-time working parent, 15 percent had a part-time working parent, and 5 percent had a parent attending school or a training program (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 1993).

Another Head Start mother, pregnant with her third child and receiving Transitional Aid to Needy Families [TANF], formerly welfare, described her plight:

I want to get off the welfare system, but I am really scared. I will have one kid in school, but I will have 2 kids I will need day care for. I know funding for child care hasn't increased, I know there are a lot of people on the waiting list for sliding fee, so I guess I really don't know what I will do. It is very overwhelming and daunting.

Like this mother, 50 percent of families enrolled in Head Start are receiving public assistance. They are guaranteed child care assistance if they find work while on TANF, then are automatically eligible for basic sliding fee [BSF] child care assistance.

These two parents represent 90 percent of Head Start families--those who are working but earning below poverty incomes and those who are receiving TANF (2). Under welfare reform, those receiving TANF, like the second mother, face a state-defined time limit and must find employment after that time. Thus, working parents and those on TANF enrolled in Head Start have child care needs. …

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