Options for Full-Day Services for Children Participating in Head Start . Ensuring High-Quality Services for Children, Parents, and Staff


All grantees visited agreed that it is essential to offer high-quality services to Head Start children and families. They felt strongly that it is possible to deliver high-quality services in a full-day program and that Head Start's Performance Standards can be met throughout the day. However, delivery of high-quality services is easier in some models of full-day care than in others. The wraparound model is the easiest because Head Start staff are in charge of the entire program for children and parents; they are well versed in the program's philosophy and regulations and can ensure that standards are met.

The wrap-in model, in which Head Start staff add services to existing child care programs, makes delivery of high-quality services somewhat more difficult. It may take time for the teachers in these programs to complete appropriate training and implement high-quality programs. It may also take time for staff to develop successful parent involvement strategies and for parents to become involved. Therefore, grantees suggest that the Head Start Bureau allow time for grantees to phase Head Start into existing child care settings before expecting all regulations to be met. In addition, clear expectations for the phase-in period should be stated in the On-Site Program Review Instrument.

The connected care model is the most difficult from a quality standpoint because Head Start staff are not in charge of implementing the connected care program. The one grantee director visited who used such a model said that although she would prefer to contract only with high-quality providers of child care, she does not always succeed due to lower than market reimbursement rates. Her goal is to create and forge such strong linkages in the community that all child care providers will move into the high-quality range. However, this is a long-term goal. She believes that Head Start may need to provide additional funding to grantees who use a connected care model to allow them to offer training, equipment, and materials to their contracted providers so that Head Start children are assured of high-quality care in all of their care settings.

The logistics of carrying out a high-quality program for parents who are in school or training programs or are working have posed difficulties for grantees as they move from part-day to full-day programs; working parents just do not have the same amount of time and energy to devote to Head Start activities. In response, grantees have developed new and creative ways to provide all aspects of Head Start for their full-day families. For instance, all grantees agree on the importance of the parent involvement component of the program. As cited in Chapter II, many grantees have developed successful strategies for working with parents. Several staff members, especially those associated with family child care homes, said that they felt they had especially strong relationships with parents because they had daily contact with most parents who drop off and pick up their children. During arrival and departure hours, staff and parents exchange a good deal of information about the children, child rearing, and family circumstances. Therefore, the staff felt that parents were involved, even though staff could not report parent classroom time or attendance at meetings that would clearly demonstrate the involvement. At the same time, all staff were interested in suggestions for ways to involve parents further. Staff encouraged Head Start to continue to develop materials concerning parent involvement including strategies for working parents and to hold workshops on the topic, because they wanted to hear about as many successful strategies as possible.

Several issues discussed by grantees under the topic of high-quality service delivery related particularly to the quality of the work lives of teaching staff in full-day programs. Like staff in part-day classrooms, these staff must prepare the classroom for new activities, clean up from past activities, keep child records up to date, and complete home visits. These staff also would like to participate in as many hours of training as are provided for part-day staff. Yet they are with children for longer hours — in family child care homes, for as many as 10 to 12 hours a day. Directors created many arrangements to allow breaks during the day, time for record keeping, and time off to compensate for training time and evening hours spent conducting home visits. But these same directors point out that it is costly to pay for additional staff or substitutes. They would like to see Head Start state in policies or accepted practice documents that one of the expected costs of full-day services is the cost of substitutes or additional staff to support breaks, compensatory time, and staff training time.

Finally, program staff believe that the quality of their services is enhanced by the availability of technical assistance. Staff would appreciate the chance to talk with knowledgeable people about the issues they are facing and hear suggestions about ways others have dealt with these issues. Grantee programs are not unraveling or failing in quality; however, staff often find their jobs to be stressful. Connection to a strong technical assistance staff makes grantee staff feel a part of a large network with the same goal, rather than alone in attempting to improve the lives of families. Therefore, staff would like Head Start to strengthen the technical assistance network in its ability to support full-day programs.