Health Manager Orientation Guide

Identification of Known or Suspected Special Health Care Needs

A group of people at a table.Early and ongoing identification of children with known or suspected special health care needs improves their participation in Head Start services. Children who receive the added support they need can benefit more from the comprehensive services that Head Start programs provide. Staff can identify children with known or suspected special health care needs at any time during the school year. Health managers can look for any illness, changes, hospitalizations, or introduction of new medications that may signal a special health care need.

Tips and Strategies for Identification of Known or Suspected Special Health Care Needs

  • Set up procedures that help programs identify special health care needs at enrollment, throughout the program year, and when the family or health care professional gives new or more information. These procedures may include one or more of these documents or processes:
    • Parent/guardian consent form
    • Health care or service provider instructions
    • Medication administration instructions and logs
    • Other forms required by state, tribal, and territorial regulations
    • Other medical documents (e.g., physical exam or assessment form, health history or intake, and information specific to the health need or medications)
    • Internal referrals to other program staff when their support is needed
    • External communication with health care and service providers as needed
  • When talking with families, be aware of language used to identify children with special health care needs, as families may not use the term “special health care needs.”
  • Set up a health history intake process that encourages families to share relevant health information, including:
    • History of the current health condition
    • Medications for regular or emergency use
    • Identification of all health-related providers the family may engage with
    • Other or related medical history
    • Services or evaluations received
    • Barriers to getting services, which may be assessed using a tool that screens for social determinants of health
    • Concerns about their child or their ability to manage their child’s health condition
  • Make sure the family has a continuous source of ongoing, accessible health care.