Beginning in PY 2021-2022, OHS expects Head Start programs to offer comprehensive services in their approved program options, to the extent possible, as local health conditions allow. However, OHS acknowledges that programs are in different stages of fully returning to in-person services during this “ramp up” period. Due to local health conditions, some programs are alternating between in-person services, virtual or remote services, or some combination of the two. Programs still offering virtual services should consider how they individualize these services for children and their parents and how service delivery will differ from the typical in-person model. Explore these resources to help families get the technology necessary for virtual services and to support staff in delivering virtual service models. This section is regularly updated with the most relevant resources. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.
Learning and Development in a Virtual Environment
While Early Head Start and Head Start programs are working towards full in-person operations, there are communities where programs may need to remain physically closed or reduce onsite services due to local health and safety precautions. In these cases, programs should continue to use best practices to offer comprehensive services for children and to support families and children in the home. Virtual learning — particularly in birth to age 5 settings — is an emerging approach to education. There are many important things to consider when determining when, how, and with whom to start virtual learning strategies. The resources in this section can help you think through your approach.
- Virtual Learning at Home in Early Head Start and Head Start
- Using the Family Partnership Process to Support Virtual Learning in the Home
- Ideas to Help Education Staff Plan for Virtual Learning
- Daily Schedule for Children Under 12 Months of Age
- Daily Schedule for Children 12-18 Months of Age
- Daily Schedule for Children 2-4 Years of Age
- Credible Media for Young Children
Communication and Connectivity: Family Supports for Remote Service Delivery
Phones, laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi, and charging capability are critical tools for remote service delivery. Families and children rely on these tools to access Head Start and Early Head Start and other vital health and human services in their communities. To ensure Head Start and Early Head Start families have the access they need, wherever possible, consider these resources.
Free Internet Services
In response to COVID-19 developments, some internet providers are offering free services to low-income families and households with students. Social distancing should not mean social isolation for Head Start and Early Head Start families. Help families stay connected virtually and access free internet. They can also take advantage of free video platforms so they can stay in touch with family, friends, trusted providers, and, possibly, other Head Start families.
Social Media Messages for Supporting Families in Uncertain Times
Send these positive messages to families to let them know you are thinking of them during challenging times.
Connect with staff from around the country to exchange ideas and share resources. There are regularly scheduled orientations for new users. Consider joining communities such as PFCE Deepening Practice; Health, Safety, and Wellness; Mental Health Consultation; Teacher Time; Home Visiting; and Economic Mobility.
While delivering remote service models, staff may have the flexibility to focus on individual professional development. Explore ideas for organizing and documenting professional development. Review the most popular professional development materials available from OHS.
Rapid Response Virtual Home Visiting
Explore best practice principles and strategies to support all home visiting professionals in maintaining meaningful connection with families during this time of increased anxiety and need. Discover resources and register for webinars.
Virtual Home Visits
Learn what issues to consider when designing virtual home visits.
Family Service Staff
Tips for Family Services Staff Working Remotely with Families
Find tips for family services staff and other direct service professionals who are teleworking with Head Start and Early Head Start families.
Tips for Supervising Family Services Staff Who Are Working Remotely
Supervisors can use these tips to support family services staff and other direct service professionals who are teleworking with families.
Making Videos at Home: Tips for Educators
Explore useful tips for making simple videos to share with and support families. If Head Start teachers and families have access to technology, teachers can post videos of themselves online or use direct video messaging. Teachers and home visitors can reassure children of all ages with simple and consistent messages. Use children's names and do a familiar greeting, song, or finger play. Remember that many families are under enormous stress. They do not need to duplicate all the educational experiences that happen at a center. They should focus on keeping themselves and children safe and healthy.
Special Education and Early Intervention
Some special education and early intervention programs may still be using tele-intervention to reach out to families. The guidance and strategies in these resources may help to ease the stress of feeling isolated and alone during a virtual services period. Remember, while distance learning and teletherapy opportunities provide some consistency and continuity, those experiences may or may not be possible depending on internet access and location.
- Tele-Intervention and the Routines-Based Model
- Tele-Intervention 101 Learning Courses for Families, Providers, and Administrators
- A Practical Guide to the Use of Tele-Intervention in Providing Early Intervention Services to Infants and Toddlers Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Telepractice
- Learning at Home During Trying Times
- Supporting Families During COVID-19
Remote Service Delivery and Distance Learning for Children with IEPs and IFSPs
While preparing for the transition to in-person services, ongoing communication is critical to keeping parents and families up-to-date on virtual or hybrid program-related information. Communication can help ease the stress of feeling isolated and alone. Parents and families who have a child with a disability may have other concerns and questions about their child's IFSP- and IEP-related services (e.g., speech therapy) and the transition back to the program.
- Connect with service providers to support continuity of early intervention, special education, and related services for children with disabilities and their families. Include planning for scheduled transitions, as appropriate.
- Schedule and maintain regular check-ins with families. Encourage families to share their concerns, provide updates on tele-intervention or telehealth sessions as they are comfortable, and share any changes in their child's development. Find help in Planning for the Use of Video Conferencing for Early Intervention Home Visits During the COVID-19 Pandemic. See Services for Children with Disabilities or Suspected Delays for information about supporting families of children with disabilities from a distance.
- Encourage families to support their child's learning during daily home activities. Start with one or two small goals that are easy to embed into everyday routines, such as mealtime, outdoors, and reading. This approach will ease the burden on families who may feel the need to plan and implement lessons at home. Be sure to ask families what they want to address most and where they believe they need the most support. Find help from Encouraging Child Learning in Everyday Activities and Let's Talk About Routines.
- Keep communication simple and flexible. While families feel supported when connecting with program staff, it is important to avoid over-burdening them with additional responsibilities, calls, texts, and mailings. Find ideas in Using Social Media to Engage Families.
- See Services for Children with Disabilities or Suspected Delays for information about supporting families when developmental concerns arise.
Supporting Educators Who Are Serving Children with Disabilities
It is important for disability services staff to regularly connect with education staff during unexpected program closures and social distancing. Staff work together to discuss ways to support children with disabilities and their families remotely.
- Start with connection and empathy. Acknowledge the additional burden on educators who may also be parents of children home from school or child care.
- Call to just to say hi and to see how things are going.
- Keep communication simple and flexible.
- Share information gathered from early intervention or special education partners.
- Brainstorm strategies for supporting children with disabilities and their families.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Office of Head Start
Last Updated: October 28, 2021