COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Staff Support

Opening Additional Classrooms to Accommodate Staff’s Children

The Children's Center, Franklin, VA

The grantee opened two additional school-aged classrooms to accommodate staff whose elementary school children were home for virtual services. The extra space helps ensure availability of Head Start and Early Head Start staff for program services.

Extra Layer of Support for Children and Families

Monroe County Board of Education, Union, WV

CARES Act funds were used to employ the grantee’s family service manager throughout the summer month as an extra layer of support for children and families. A large percentage of the grantee’s funded enrollment was struggling with mental health and social and emotional issues due to the pandemic. Some of these issues included being confined at home, having all their children at home all the time, and unemployment. Staff worked with families by connecting them to mental health resources in the community.

Caring for Those Who Care Initiative

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, Raleigh, NC

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project used CARES Act funding to directly support center-level staff as COVID-19 frontline workers and to start the Caring for Those Who Care Initiative. Through the initiative, mental health consultants offered staff an opportunity to have one-on-one consultations. 40% of staff took advantage of the one-on-one consultations, and 16% engaged in follow-up consultations. In addition to this initiative, all employees had access to mental health assistance through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) specially promoted by the Human Resources (HR) and Health teams. East Coast Migrant also provided center-based staff paid leave whenever a facility had to be closed due to COVID-19 cases and exposure.

Use of Surveys and Expanding the Roles of Mental Health Experts to Address Staff Needs

Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, Inc., Decatur, AL

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and trauma-informed specialist lead the response to all of this program’s social and emotional needs, including those associated with the COVID-19 crisis. Before the crisis, the program started a Work on Wellness Initiative to provide all staff emotional support services. After the crisis, these services were expanded to address emotional challenges specifically associated with the COVID-19 response. The program created a survey assessing staff members' fears regarding the virus and asked them to identify the services and supports they needed. If necessary, survey responses led to individualized staff support services, including reflective counseling and referrals to licensed therapists. The LCSW tracked all survey responses, requests for care, referrals, and outcomes.

Mindful Moments and Use of Wellness Centers

Community Action Program of Evansville & Vanderburgh County, Inc., Evansville, IN

Information on mental health services and resources was posted at sites and sent to all staff. Program directors and supervisors checked in on staff who live alone to see how they were doing and offer support. The program uses Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) resources to create demo videos on breathing techniques to take care of yourself and your mind. Mindful Moment materials are sent to all staff regularly. The program offers breastfeeding rooms at each site and a wellness center with treadmill, balls, and relaxation room.

Promoting Mental Health for Employees Through Human Resources Workshops

Administration for Integral Child Care Development, San Juan, PR

The grantee's HR specialist described the resources provided and available to all Head Start and Early Head Start staff. Virtual and limited attendance in-person workshops focused on the well-being of staff. Topics included debriefing the transition of services for virtual and social distancing, handling stress, being present, helping the helpers, and identifying additional support. Other resources included a three-part workshop offered through HR for employees at an individual level. Each employee is contacted to identify needs, supports, and provide a safe environment for a private discussion.

Creation of FLORECE Training

Municipality of Orocovis, Orocovis, PR

This program has an assigned budget for mental health and they have continued to provide services via phone and virtually to parents and staff. Mental health consultants offer training on stress management to all staff, and staff share information with the parents via email or phone calls. The program has also held parent trainings on worries from the pandemic and how to understand their children at home.

The program’s consultants and the psychologists provided a training called FLORECE. The FLORECE proposal stemmed from management concerns and from analyzing the needs that children, families, and employees could have as a result of all the emergencies that occurred in the country since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the earthquakes, and the COVID-19 pandemic. This virtual training focused on staff mental health. From March 2020 to February 2021, three new psychologists were hired to meet the needs of the community.