Options for Full-Day Services for Children Participating in Head Start . Meeting the Needs of Head Start Families


Head Start is based on the premise that its services must meet the needs of both children and families. Its goal is to help families become more self-sufficient. Its components, for example, cover required services in the education and health areas for children and in the social services and parent involvement areas for adults. But many of the funding sources that are used by grantees to extend the Head Start day are more narrowly focused on funding the child care that is necessary for the adult to be involved in a job or in a training program. These other programs do not focus on the comprehensive needs of the child and of the family. Specifically, AFDC/JOBS focuses on supporting one aspect of the transition of adults from welfare to work by funding child care so that parents are able to attend training programs or school and engage in job search activities. Likewise, CCDBG child care funding is designed to serve the child care needs of low-income working parents by providing a safe environment for their children.

However, the desire to meet the needs of families creates three principal difficulties for Head Start grantees that use wraparound or wrap-in funding. First, judgments of child eligibility for services that depends on the activities of the parent all too often results in a lack of stability for the child. Pulling together funding from a variety of sources can and does lead to the situation where a child may have to switch care arrangements — from a full-day to a part-day program — in the middle of the year due to parental loss of eligibility for service. For instance, when an AFDC/JOBS parent registers for a course, enters the child in a full-day Head Start class, and then discovers the course has been cancelled, his or her child may have to be moved to another classroom or program because AFDC/JOBS will not, under these parental circumstances, pay for the child's care. Likewise, when a parent completes school or a training program and is looking for work, AFDC/JOBS will pay only for care that is reasonably related to the parents activity; in many states, this practice means part-day care and that the child's care situation has to change.

To promote the ability of grantees to serve the need of children to have a stable long-term program of services, grantee staff would like guidance from Head Start concerning approved actions they can take. Would it be possible for Head Start to pay for a child's full-time placement when the parent is waiting for a program to begin, is in a hiatus between parts of a continuing program, or is engaged in a job search? For instance, Head Start grantees might request part-day funding for Head Start, with the intent of using wraparound or wrap-in funding for full-day services, and might request an allotment of funds for full-day services for any family in a hiatus in funding. Perhaps these issues can be addressed directly in the forthcoming guidance (NPRM) from Head Start on the new IV-A regulation.

Second, when Head Start staff know the circumstances of a family, sometimes staff believe that the child and family would significantly benefit from a full-day program, yet the family does not qualify under the requirements of other funding sources. The instances in which grantee staff make this observation could be broadly subsumed under the rubric of "significant family stress." For example, if a parent is struggling with a drug problem and the child is frequently with a grandparent or a neighbor who is having trouble providing continual care, grantee staff may wish to place the child in a full-day classroom. Homeless children and those served by child protective services might also fall into this category. Yet the family may not qualify for any wraparound funding. The suggestion from grantees, then, is that Head Start extend the approved list of reasons for children to be placed in full-day classrooms to include instances of significant family stress (as determined by grantee staff).

The family need for convenience in care arrangements is imbedded in the reality of the time constraints on parents when they must deliver their children to child care or school in the morning and themselves to work or a training program. It is a lot easier to accomplish this daily task if all children go to the same location or different buildings in close proximity. The director in Dayton, OH, reported that one mother takes three buses each morning to deliver her children to care and herself to work. Because decisions concerning Head Start's program for infants and toddlers are still being made, grantees provided input by stating their goal that Head Start allow grantees to provide full-day care for infants and toddlers, should grantees be awarded a new Early Head Start grant. Head Start grantees, therefore, would prefer to set up classrooms for infants and children up to 5 years old in the same building or place children in this age range in nearby family child care homes.