Once the Head Start program ends at 1 p.m., the approximately 40 children who receive full-day services are bused by Head Start to one of nine licensed community child care centers or four licensed family home care providers with whom the Head Start program has a "purchase of service" contract. (On Mondays and during the summer, when the Head Start program is closed, parents must deliver their children to child care providers for the full day.) Parents may choose which of the child care programs they want their children to attend. In these programs, Head Start and non-Head Start children are served together, sometimes in similar-age groups and sometimes in mixed- age groups.
Four hours of service for each child is funded by CCDBG grants; and parents must pick their children up at the end of the day at the providers they use. Most child care centers are closed for one week at Christmas; one center in Radford is also closed for one week each summer.
Under CCDBG rules, parents are eligible for NRCA child care funding only if they are working or in education or training. Under state rules, the NRCA must quarterly verify parent eligibility status through written confirmation from employers or schools. Originally, the state allowed the NRCA to fund full-day child care for Head Start-eligible children on the Head Start waiting list; now, only children enrolled in Head Start are eligible for the CCDBG funds.
Even though the program serves only one-tenth of its Head Start enrollment in full-day care, there is not currently a waiting list for full-day services. The Head Start director feels, however, that this misrepresents her families' need for full-day services, since almost two-thirds of her parents work or are in training. Both she and the two off-site child care providers we interviewed believe that many Head Start parents do not request full-day funding simply because they cannot find low- cost child care for older or younger siblings.20 Without child care for all of their children, parents cannot take the steps they need to ensure self-sufficiency, according to the director and providers interviewed. For instance, one of the family home care providers described the case of a Head Start parent who had returned to school at the urging of the Head Start program. Once in school, the parent was unable to find affordable before- and after-school care after her child "graduated" from Head Start.
Among other reasons cited by those interviewed, parents often do not request full-day care because they live in isolated rural areas in which no licensed child care centers or family home providers are available. In such cases, parents often rely on relatives to care for their children when Head Start is closed.