Puget Sound ESD Head Start worked closely with a number of agencies in order to implement its full-day Head Start options. First, because its full-day services depend financially on state child care subsidies (which are administered by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)), Puget Sound has talked with DSHS staff at length about policies and procedures that could sometimes inadvertently raise barriers to implementing full-day service. For example, in establishing services under the homeless grant, Puget Sound held a meeting with DSHS and transitional housing providers to explain the program and to explore concerns.
Second, Puget Sound had to work closely with the licensing agency, as the State of Washington has more stringent standards than many states. Regulations, for instance, mandate the type of mats used for naps and the distance between cots or mats. In addition, Head Start sites wanting to implement full-day services must have a licensed child care supervisor who must attend specific training meetings. To be sure they meet regulations, Puget Sound staff take a proactive approach. Before purchasing five modular buildings, for example, Puget Sound sent the proposed blueprints to the licensing agency.
Head Start staff found the licensers to be very helpful, and a good working relationship between the two agencies has been established. Interaction is facilitated by a new state mandate that requires newly hired licensers to have some background in early childhood education. Head Start has been working to improve communication with the licensing agency in order to be notified of any complaints against providers. Complaints are directed to the licensing agency but, in the past, the provider and Head Start were not always informed about the complaint.
Each Puget Sound subcontractor providing full-day services is a "living example" of collaboration between Head Start and other community agencies. One such subcontractor, Bellevue Community College (BCC), uses several collaborations to enhance its own services. First, it works with BCC's child development program, for which Head Start shares the cost of supplies (and the Head Start lead teacher supervises one to two student teachers per quarter). Second, the Head Start Family Service Worker who attends monthly meetings
with other agencies in the local area reports that Head Start has a great deal of community support, thanks to a good relationship with the City of Bellevue.
Other collaborations have been established by Families First and the homeless program. The Executive Director of Puget Sound ESD Head Start serves on the Board of Directors of Families First. The homeless program has an advisory committee that includes transitional housing organizations, other homeless programs, DSHS, King County Child Care and Head Start; and the homeless services coordinator sees Head Start's role as critical in helping DSHS and transitional housing groups understand what homeless families are facing.
Puget Sound managers and representatives of the child care community agree that collaboration between programs is the key to expanding the quality and availability of full-day services. The relationship between Head Start and child care in the Puget Sound area is excellent, in part because there is a considerable amount of employment crossover between the two programs. King County Child Care, for example, is a subsidy program for parents who are working or are in training, but who are above the DSHS income for child care subsidy. The program is county-funded and subsidizes care for 500 children served by 184 providers, including those in the city of Seattle. Child care options include home providers and centers; and a few of the sites are Head Start programs. One of the key staff members of King County Child Care started out as a Head Start parent, then was a Head Start aide, and then a Head Start teacher. She now serves on the Head Start Policy Council, on the Family Child Care Advisory Board, and on the Head Start Homeless Services Advisory Board.
Puget Sound also collaborates with Child Care Resources, a non-profit community child care information and referral agency. Child Care Resources assisted Head Start in recruiting providers for the family child care option and the homeless grant, by searching its computerized network for listings of licensed providers in specific geographic areas. Head Start staff members participate in a task group with child care providers, working toward commonality statewide in community college offerings in child development and early childhood education.
The consensus in the local child care community is that the move toward full-day Head Start is positive, but issues remain in question. One such issue regards the contribution of Puget Sound in family child care, which, while very important, serves a very small number of families. There is a concern, too, about the limited impact Head Start can have by expanding existing Head Start sites to full-day. Child care organizations would like to see Head Start assist the child care community in a broader way — by opening up training to others in the community, for instance.