Head Start: A Unique Approach to a Common Issue

Head Start at The Family Conservancy

Head Start at The Family Conservancy

Over the past 139 years, TFC has grown, changed and adapted to meet the needs of the Kansas City community. Throughout this extensive history there have been several periods of significant change, but when looking at the organization that exists today, the 1960s stands out as a period when much of the foundation for our work was laid. 

Simultaneously, at the federal level, some big changes were taking place too. In 1965, President Johnson’s war on poverty led to the creation of Head Start. While it would be another 40 years before TFC would receive Head Start funding, a growing understanding of child development and the success of this early education program kept TFC moving toward work in early childhood. 

You’ve probably heard of Head Start, and may be aware that it’s a federally-funded early education program for families with low incomes. In recognition of Head Start Awareness Month, we would like to tell you a bit more about TFC’s role, and the amazing things this program is doing for children and families in our community. 

The premise of Head Start is simple – high-quality, comprehensive early education services offer children an opportunity to reach their full potential. Explaining the delivery of Head Start can be more difficult, because Head Start doesn’t look the same in every community. While its flexibility can make it difficult to explain, the ability to adapt the program to meet a community’s unique needs is an undeniable advantage. 

Today, there are three main ways TFC serves Head Start children and families: 

Partnering with Community Child Care Programs in Kansas

In 2015, TFC was awarded a grant, and joined a select group of organizations partnered with child care programs to administer Head Start services. 

Instead of opening an exclusive Head Start center, this grant allowed TFC to embed the pillars of Head Start into existing child care programs in Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. Support was provided to help providers meet Head Start’s rigorous standards. Partners received funding to make facility improvements in order to increase their capacity to serve and the quality of their environment; teachers received professional development and training; and a curriculum designed to make the most of this critical child development period was implemented.

Now that the initial partnership groundwork is complete, TFC continues to support the partners by recruiting and enrolling children for their Head Start spaces, providing continuing education to teachers and administrators, providing health and wellness screenings to Head Start children, offering early childhood mental health consultation for teachers, and support for children and families. 

Four years into this work, TFC has received additional funding to build on the existing community partnership work to double their footprint. They will. This new grant will establish continuity of care for children, by enabling partner programs to serve until they reach kindergarten. 

The great thing about this model is its ability to reach far beyond the children and families enrolled in Head Start. At most of the partner sites, only a fraction of the children are enrolled in Head Start, but all children at the site will benefit from the improved environment and teaching practices. 

See how this work is impacting children and child care providers in this short video. 

Teaching Parents to be Their Child’s Teacher in Missouri

TFC’s Home-based Head Start services are another unique approach to enabling high-quality early education for families with low incomes and children with special needs. TFC home-visitors support parents in their most important role, as their child’s first teacher and caregiver. Home visitors work with parents and their children in their own homes for 90 minutes each week. Together, the home visitor and parent(s) plan ways to help the child learn using parent-child interactions, daily routines, and household materials. 

TFC’s Home-based Head Start team currently provides support to families in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri.

Watch this video to see how TFC’s home visitors help parents become better teachers. 

Providing Professional Development and Support Services to Area Head Start Programs

TFC’s role with Head Start on the Missouri side of the Kansas City Metro has recently gone through some changes, but our coaches, trainers and specialists continue to support Missouri Head Start programs by providing professional development and mental health support to teachers and programs.

In 2019, this work is impacting hundreds of Head Start teachers and thousands of Head Start children on the Missouri side of the metro. 

 

Find out how you can support this work.