4
Examining Community–Head Start Collaborations

Head Start was conceptualized as a community action program, with a strong emphasis on local determination. It is unique as an intervention of national scope that, at the same time, is carefully tailored to the needs of each local community in which it exists. Head Start has brought tremendous resources and vitality to the communities it serves; its effectiveness, in turn, is partly dependent on the range of services and resources that surround it. Since Head Start is, by design, a program intended to facilitate coordination among other community services, there is a need to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship between Head Start and other local programs (see Box 4).

It is commonly perceived that the array of community services and resources that surround Head Start today is more complex than was the case when the program was initiated. The United States is in the midst of significant reform efforts—in education, health care, and social services—that hold major, but unclear, implications for the community contexts of Head Start in the years ahead, as well as for the needs of Head Start families. It became evident to the roundtable members that Head Start faces a central challenge posed by its mandate to be a comprehensive, community-based program, on one hand, and by its need to make reasonable judgments about what it can be expected to accomplish in the context of contemporary poverty, on the other. This, in turn, raises questions about what it means to "involve" families in Head Start; the interdependence of Head



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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families 4 Examining Community–Head Start Collaborations Head Start was conceptualized as a community action program, with a strong emphasis on local determination. It is unique as an intervention of national scope that, at the same time, is carefully tailored to the needs of each local community in which it exists. Head Start has brought tremendous resources and vitality to the communities it serves; its effectiveness, in turn, is partly dependent on the range of services and resources that surround it. Since Head Start is, by design, a program intended to facilitate coordination among other community services, there is a need to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship between Head Start and other local programs (see Box 4). It is commonly perceived that the array of community services and resources that surround Head Start today is more complex than was the case when the program was initiated. The United States is in the midst of significant reform efforts—in education, health care, and social services—that hold major, but unclear, implications for the community contexts of Head Start in the years ahead, as well as for the needs of Head Start families. It became evident to the roundtable members that Head Start faces a central challenge posed by its mandate to be a comprehensive, community-based program, on one hand, and by its need to make reasonable judgments about what it can be expected to accomplish in the context of contemporary poverty, on the other. This, in turn, raises questions about what it means to "involve" families in Head Start; the interdependence of Head

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Box 4 To foster links with the community, the National Head Start Association has created four national partnerships with organizations that share the same mission and have similar infrastructures: the National PTA Association, the National Mental Health Association, the National Commission to Prevent Child Abuse, and Reading is Fundamental. In general, the goals of these partnerships are: to create a mechanism, at the national level, that provides programs with the technical assistance and concrete step-by-step guidance to create successful partnerships; to develop a substantive and long-term partnership; to establish the infrastructure needed to create partnerships that are long-term and self-generating; and to collect and disseminate data on promising practices. Start and other community resources in efforts to achieve positive outcomes for children and families; and Head Start's role in relation to other organizations and resources in the community. Because Head Start is reliant on community resources, it is profoundly affected by problems that have arisen in both urban and rural areas from the loss of community resources—notably economic resources—and the accompanying deterioration of the social fabric that holds communities together. The roundtable members focused their attention on the toll that community and family violence can take on Head Start programs and staff and on the families they serve, as well as on the mental health consequences for children and families of the combined impact of chronic poverty and violence. The prevailing notions of what a "good" Head Start program looks like and expectations of what such a program can accomplish may be increasingly inappropriate for many of the communities that Head Start now serves. Head Start's place in the configuration of community resources as it affects the program's capacity to meet families' needs, as well as the community-level effects of Head Start, has received minimal attention in recent research.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Robin Jarret cautioned the roundtable about the difficulty of strengthening families in a social vacuum. Effective Head Start programs need to encourage parent coalitions, improve informal social controls and support systems, and help parents to establish a network of knowledge and resources. What are the contributions that Head Start's community action emphasis makes to these processes? The questions regarding the effects of resource depletion and dangerous communities on Head Start are new and, as such, demand research attention. For example, a 1994 General Accounting Office report on early childhood programs reported that about one-fourth of Head Start programs, accounting for over 150,000 children, had difficulty getting help from local health professionals in the community (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994). These difficulties were due to: (1) the lack of available resources in the community and (2) the reluctance of health professionals to accept Medicaid reimbursements to treat Head Start children. It is critical, then, to understand what Head Start faces in these communities, to rethink notions of parent involvement and family support in this context, and to use this information to redefine the nature and scope of an effective program in extremely deprived neighborhoods. ISSUES FOR RESEARCH Community Resources, Head Start Quality, and Community Impacts The Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion highlighted the importance of forging effective partnerships with key community institutions and programs as a critical component of creating a Head Start for the 21st century (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993). It further noted that effective partnerships will require changed roles at the federal, state, and local levels that must extend beyond Head Start to include a broad range of community institutions, from child care services and schools—the focus of the Head Start Transition Projects—to the private sector. From the perspective of research, the roundtable members identified three types of linkages that warrant examination: (1) Head Start families'

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families relations to other specialized services and community institutions that may either interfere with or contribute to Head Start's efforts to improve family well-being, (2) the nature and extent of Head Start's access to community resources that facilitate its capacity to offer families appropriate and high-quality services, and (3) the contribution of the presence of Head Start to the availability and quality of local resources and community institutions. John Love cited the Free to Grow Project as an example of a partnership between community agencies and Head Start centers to promote substance abuse-free communities. The core of this effort is the attempt to strengthen the immediate environment of vulnerable children. This vulnerability, Love noted, is a function of a number of risk and protective factors identifiable in the child's environment. Efforts to document the family-level effects of Head Start, as well as the ways in which families mediate the effects of Head Start on their children, rarely consider the influence of Head Start in the context of other resources and services in the community that are often available to its families. Estimates of the effects of Head Start need to consider the constellation of other community-level influences—positive and negative—on the families it serves. The issue is not one of estimating Head Start's effects net of other services, but of examining variation in Head Start's effects as a function of the context of the community resources in which it operates. When do surrounding resources undermine, or encourage, the capacity of Head Start to produce beneficial outcomes in its children and families? The quality of services that Head Start provides to its families depends increasingly on its fit with other institutions—formal and informal—in the network of resources that serve the same families. Today, it is increasingly difficult to meet all of the needs of impoverished families in the context of full-time employment by low-income mothers, growing needs for mental health services, calls to improve family literacy, and rising community violence, to name a few contemporary pressures on Head Start. Indeed, the roundtable members discussed the possibility of stretching basic conceptions of high-quality Head Start programs to encompass aspects of collaboration with other community institutions and to assume greater

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families responsibility for ensuring that the needs of the families it serves are not only identified, but also addressed. Among the questions raised: What features of Head Start enable it to forge productive linkages with other community resources? What opportunities exist for collaborative needs assessments and staff training? How can the lessons that Head Start has already learned about providing comprehensive services be shared with a broader array of community institutions? Sara Rosenbaum discussed the need to find ways to connect Head Start centers with new ventures in managed health care. She stressed the need to study the relationship between Head Start centers and local health management organizations, and to develop models and precedents for collaboration between Head Start and health management organizations. A respected effort aimed at documenting the effects of Head Start on the community was conducted 25 years ago (Kirschner Associates Inc., 1970). Field research was conducted in a national sample of 58 communities with full-year Head Start programs and 7 communities with little exposure to Head Start. The most promising conclusion of the report was that Head Start had been instrumental in fostering some fundamental changes in communities. The reported changes included increased involvement of the poor in decision-making capacities with local institutions, increased employment among the indigenous population as paraprofessionals, greater responsiveness of schools to the comprehensive needs of the children in their communities, and modification of health services and practices to serve the poor more effectively (see Box 5). Today, the socioeconomic environment of impoverished families is in tremendous flux. As a result, community changes such as those found in the Kirschner study may be difficult to replicate. Furthermore, in the context of serious fiscal constraints in many communities, these types of changes may prove more difficult to accomplish than in the late 1960s when resources were more plentiful and the nation rallied behind the War on Poverty. At a minimum, any effort to identify community-level effects of Head Start would need to reconsider the outcomes that are both important to assess and amenable to measurement.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Box 5 The Kirschner report documented the following community-level effects of Head Start: In one southern community, the public health institution desegregated its waiting room and opened the facilities one evening a week; families in poverty increased their use of this health care resource. A midwestern school system employed indigenous teacher aides in poor neighborhoods to tutor children after school. In Appalachia, a visiting nurse program was established to provide routine nursing care to the sick. A school system in a northern industrial city developed an after-school recreational activity program in its lowest-income neighborhoods. A group of Head Start parents formed a consumer cooperative that purchased fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and distributed them to families in inner city neighborhoods. Families in Violent Homes and Communities Despite growing evidence of children's extensive exposure to violence in the community and in the home, research on this issue is in its infancy. This area of research was recently the topic of a major National Research Council report, Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect (National Research Council, 1993). It is also the subject of a major study, conducted under the auspices of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families, on assessing family violence interventions that is scheduled for completion in 1996. We lack basic statistics on the prevalence with which preschool-age children in this country witness violence, are threatened, or are the direct victims of violence. Similarly, representative data on the frequency or chronicity of young children's exposure to violence are unavailable. This is due in part to the absence of reliable methods for measuring exposure to violence in young children, particularly exposure that stops short of direct physical harm to child (e.g., Taylor, Zuckerman, Harik, and McAlister Groves, 1994). Efforts to understand the consequences of exposure to chronic community and family violence are necessarily limited by the reality that efforts to define and document the phenomenon are in their early stages (Osofsky, 1995). In the absence of a taxonomy of kinds of

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families violence, however, and a more detailed understanding of its epidemiology, it is exceedingly difficult to estimate the magnitude of the problem and to consider ways in which Head Start centers can move to confront it. Head Start nevertheless serves a growing population of children who are exposed to violence, sometimes frequently and chronically, and for whom the consequences are abundantly evident. The roundtable members focused on issues that enlist Head Start in efforts to identify promising approaches for helping children and their families cope with exposure to violence. If Head Start becomes part of an effort to develop effective prevention programs for young children exposed to violence, then it will also have the opportunity to contribute to the development of appropriate outcomes for tracking the progress of these children. Also, the roundtable discussed the important effect that violence may have on selection into Head Start and the dearth of research on the effects of exposure to violence on parenting and caregiving—a target for both intervention and adaptation of traditional approaches to parent involvement in Head Start. Barry Zuckerman identified two areas that merit research attention: measures of exposure to violence and intervention programs in Head Start. As researchers begin to unravel the developmental consequences of children's exposure to violence, there is an urgent need to develop markers of exposure that can be used by the range of adults, including Head Start teachers, who work with young children. The provision of services in the context of violent communities is a topic with immense practical significance and about which little is known. Among the questions raised: How does the presence of violence in the community change Head Start programs? How do programs cope with violence and what supports do they need? What, for example, are the implications of violence for carrying out home visit requirements? What is the impact of violence on parents and their capacity to parent? What adaptations in strategies for involving parents, such as using workshops on safety rather than on parenting to draw parents into Head Start, suggest themselves in this context? It was noted that some Head Start programs in some communities cannot recruit teachers because of the attendant dangers of working in the neighborhoods in which the programs are located.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Joy Osofsky noted that young children exposed to violence tend to behave like adults who have experienced post-traumatic stress syndrome: they are unable to concentrate, experience anxiety and phobias, reexperience the event in their play, show blunt affect, and exhibit social withdrawal or increased aggression. These children also experience language delay, developmental regression, and have changed perceptions of the future. Given the immense demands that these circumstances place on Head Start, some roundtable members pointed out that the issue of violence offers a very significant context within which to examine productive linkages between Head Start and other community resources. One roundtable member noted, for example, that 46 percent of Head Start programs have access to mental health professionals ''on call'' only; most lack crisis teams and intervention plans for dealing with children who have been exposed to violence. In the workshops, the roundtable members learned about collaborations with police departments that appear to hold promise for bolstering the resources that are typically available to Head Start programs. Because Head Start draws its staff from the communities that it serves, a central issue discussed concerns the large number of Head Start staff members who themselves witness violence and are the victims of violence. These staff are not only caring for children who have been exposed to violence, but are also struggling with the same issues in their own lives. Models of staff training tailored to issues of violence and its mental health ramifications are greatly needed. Jane Knitzer urged researchers to examine the ways in which Head Start centers deal with mental health issues. How do they link with other community professionals and programs? Can we identify some promising programmatic strategies (e.g., preschool mental health teams)?

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families NEXT STEPS FOR RESEARCH Community Resources and Effects The roundtable members identified three important directions for research in this area, grouped in terms of the three types of research agendas presented in Table 1. Descriptive, Quality, and Outcome Agendas 4-1. To document critical family-level effects of Head Start that bear on parents' capacity to mobilize community resources for their children, initiate a measurement development effort focused on this dimension of parent functioning. Important components of this parental role include: parental awareness of community resources, knowledge about how to access these resources, and the actual use of this knowledge on behalf of their children. 4-2. To assess the impact of differing constellations of community resources on what Head Start is able to offer families, how well it provides these services, and with what effects on families and children, several strategies could be employed. These strategies would lay the stage for a more extensive study focused on how communities affect Head Start. First, a pilot study of several Head Start communities, deliberately selected to represent some that are relatively resource-rich and some that are relatively resource poor, could contribute to developing and refining a methodology for categorizing communities in ways that are meaningful for Head Start (e.g., institutional resources, specialized services, training resources, availability of specialists who can volunteer time to Head Start, private-sector resources). Such a study could also begin to assess how and why Head Start utilizes or fails to utilize these resources. Second, a small sample of Head Start centers selected to represent high-and low-quality programs serving similar populations could be compared to obtain preliminary data on their differing access to and strategies for availing themselves of community resources. A pilot study of this nature could begin to identify the community conditions under which Head Start is able to provide high-quality care. Third, in light of ongoing extensive state-and local-level experimentation with welfare reform, health care reform, and early education, it may be possible to take advantage of natural experiments at a small number of Head Start sites that are undergoing appreciable shifts in available resources or major reconfigurations of available resources. A longitudinal

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families design would be essential for such a study, as would extensive reliance on ethnographic methodologies aimed at capturing shifting community resources and their effects on Head Start. Descriptive and Outcome Agendas 4-3. To update prior findings regarding the community-level effects of Head Start, conduct a replication and extension of the Kirschner Associates study of community impacts of Head Start. As part of this type of initiative, it would be important to reconsider the outcomes that are important to assess in today's community contexts. Examples of community-level factors to capture are community resources, community cohesiveness, opportunities for citizen decision-making, and institutional responsiveness to the needs of poor families. Violence The roundtable members identified three important directions for research in this area: Descriptive Agenda 4-4. To obtain a current profile of the prevalence and chronicity with which children and staff in Head Start are exposed to community and domestic violence and to increase public awareness of the contemporary conditions under which Head Start must operate, consider opportunities for appending a supplemental interview focused on these issues to staff and family surveys that are in the field or being contemplated. Staff, for example, could be asked to identify the extent and degree to which children in their care exhibit behaviors that have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorders in children (e.g., reenacting violent events, social withdrawal, diminished range of affect, startle responses, and hypervigilance). 4-5. To begin to ascertain the effects of exposure to violence on Head Start families and staff, to gain an understanding of how staff and parents view Head Start's role in this context, and to identify appropriate targets for intervention, conduct a qualitative, interview-based study of staff, teachers, and parents focused on these issues, perhaps linked with the proposed interview on prevalence of exposure. In addition, teachers could provide valuable insights into how children exposed to violence behave, learn, and get along with peers and staff in classrooms. How are Head Start programs, staff,

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families and families currently coping with exposure to violence? What are the programmatic effects, emotional effects, effects on family and staff recruitment, and effects on how programs interact with parents and on parent involvement and home visits? Who appears to be coping well and why? What are some strategies that staff have developed to cope with children who have been exposed to violence? What types of training and support would staff and parents like to receive? If assessed over time, answers to these questions could begin to provide insights into the evolving process of coping with violence. Descriptive and Outcome Agendas 4-6. To highlight the potential role of Head Start as a locus for violence prevention efforts and to develop program models in this area that are tailored to the Head Start population (staff and families), conduct a demonstration project at Head Start sites that are affected by moderate and high rates of community violence. Among the innovative efforts that could be examined are staff training strategies, ties to local police departments, therapeutic models, development of crisis teams, and various combinations of approaches (e.g., joint training for Head Start staff and local police in which expertise is exchanged). A critical element of such a project would be the development of evaluation criteria and measures aimed at identifying effective preventive intervention programs that are amenable to implementation within or in collaboration with Head Start.