Performance Improvement 2008. What Characterizes Early Head Start Programs?


This Survey of Early Head Start Programs collected quantitative data on all programs and qualitative information during 17 site visits. Rapid expansion of the Early Head Start program during the past decade has increased the need for descriptive information on the program. The survey included a comprehensive set of questions on program management and services in order to answer several questions: What are the characteristics of the programs and what services do they provide and to whom? How are programs managed and staffed? Do key program subgroups differ in their characteristics and how? Researchers obtained a response rate of nearly 90 percent; a remarkable result.

Early Head Start programs are equally likely to be located in urban or rural areas. Forty-two percent are in areas of increasing cultural diversity. About one-third of Early Head Start programs are small, serving 50 or fewer children and pregnant women; nearly three-quarters serve 100 or fewer. A few programs are large, with enrollment in the hundreds. Sixty-two percent of Early Head Start children enter the program between birth and age 2. Fairly high levels of family risk factors are prevalent across Early Head Start programs, in part because programs prioritize the families with greatest needs for enrollment. Across the universe of Early Head Start children, 20 percent of all Early Head Start children have been referred for evaluation of a suspected disability, and many are receiving services (76 percent). Communication disorders and developmental delays are the most common types of developmental concerns among Early Head Start children.

Most programs used a multiple service delivery model, providing both home- and center-based services. Only a few offered both types of services to all their families (combination approach). Among programs providing center-based services though their own centers, nearly half offered home visits twice a year, and the remainder did so more frequently. Notably, among programs that provided services through partners, 64 percent offered home visits more than twice a year. Ninety-five percent of programs had directors and managers with BAs or advanced degrees. In 47 percent of programs, at least half the home visitors had a BA. Few programs (13 percent) reported that all primary caregivers had an AA or higher; for 32 percent, the figure is at least half. Turnover rates among primary caregivers and home visitors were higher-between 20 and 24 percent, on average.

Report Title: Findings from the Survey of Early Head Start Programs: Communities, Programs, and Families, Sponsor: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Rachel Cohen, 202-205-8810
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
PIC ID: 8576

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