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Case Study of Community Collaboration

This case study describes the collaboration between Baltimore City Head Start and the Baltimore City Schools in Baltimore City, Maryland, an urban area. The purpose of the collaboration is to provide services to children birth to age five who are experiencing homelessness.

How the collaboration began

In FY2010, Baltimore City had approximately 4,130 families and 2,726 children birth to age five who were experiencing homelessness. The Head Start collaboration director and the state homelessness education liaison joined forces to start a collaboration effort by:

  • Initiating two to three regional technical meetings;
  • Coordinating trainings on homelessness for stakeholders;
  • Creating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the state level and encouraging stakeholders to create their own MOUs in their jurisdictions;
  • Stressing the importance of the effort and putting a timeline in place; and
  • Setting up a friendly venue where stakeholders can meet early in the process.

It took about a year to put together the initial meeting for the collaboration. While the collaboration process was being put in place, it was important that the State Department of Education continued to stress its importance. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) created at the state level put a structure in place for regular meetings where stakeholders discussed critical issues and took action.

Stakeholders included the following personnel:

  • School system personnel, including:
    • Homeless education liaison/coordinator
    • Early childhood educators
    • Preschool special education teachers
  • Head Start management and staff
  • Head Start parents (both currently and formerly experiencing homelessness)
  • Service providers for those in homeless situations, including:
    • Shelter or transitional housing providers
    • Health care providers
    • City homeless services agency
    • Department of Social Services
  • Advocates for families experiencing homelessness

Stakeholders in the collaboration effort used legal tools and services to help end homelessness. A legal advocate, who understands the Head Start Act and the McKinney-Vento Act, played a role in the effort. In addition, a grassroots movement informed systemic advocacy.

Challenges and solutions

The table below describes some of the challenges families experiencing homelessness face and the solutions the collaboration used to address those challenges.

Challenge Issues Involved Solutions
  • Majority of families experiencing homelessness are outside the shelter system
  • Preschool is not compulsory
  • No place to go for preschool services
  • Jointly create outreach/education materials:
    • Provide McKinney-Vento information to parents.
    • Explain early education services, including Head Start, child care, and prekindergarten, to parents.
  • City schools revise application forms to gather information on younger siblings.
  • Head Start shares waitlist information with city schools.
  • Department of Social Services provides a list of families experiencing homelessness to city schools.
  • Use data to support obtaining State Department and Title I funding to locate children experiencing homelessness.
  • Provide incentives for families, including backpacks and vouchers for uniforms.
  • Parents have concerns
  • Public transit system is inadequate, expensive, and is used by older children
  • Difficult to get children to multiple locations by public transit
  • Explore foundation funding and joint funding through private entities.
  • Create more preschool slots in targeted high need and under-served areas to alleviate the need to travel.
Number of preschool programs
  • Parents have difficulty finding slots in Head Start and other quality programs as they move around the city
  • Acute problem for children age three and younger
  • Child Find service does not include Head Start
  • Build on public school and Head Start partnership programs and explore creation of more programs that serve three year olds.
  • Contact Child Find and discuss adding Head Start programs to its list of child care programs.
  • Explore joint funding and budget opportunities at future collaboration meetings.
Special education services
  • Need to move the special education process along more quickly because of the transient nature of the families served
  • Meetings need to take place where it is convenient for parents
  • Revise the Child Find referral form so that children who may be experiencing homelessness are identified at the time of referral.
  • Disseminate Child Find brochures and flyers to shelters.
  • Identify a designated Child Find process manager for children who are experiencing homelessness and are not yet enrolled in city schools.
  • Encourage city schools' IEP teams to make a good faith effort to expedite the IEP process.
  • Train designated shelter staff to screen and identify children who may need a referral to Child Find for special education services.

Lessons learned

Positive aspects of the collaboration include:

  • Being child- and family-centered;
  • Looking forward and seeking solutions;
  • A willingness to take more time; and
  • Having reasonable expectations.

Stakeholders describe the following as key aspects of creating a successful collaboration:

  • Having everyone sit down and talk;
  • Actively seeking out people rather than waiting for them to join;
  • Keeping the connections active in order to work through issues that come up; and
  • Developing relationships to improve service delivery.

Areas identified as needing improvement include the following:

  • Gathering all stakeholders in the beginning of the process;
  • Involving more parents; and
  • Including front-line individuals, such as direct providers and parents, earlier in the process.

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School Districts' Local Homeless Liaisons: In Their Own Words

A school district local homeless liaison from Minneapolis, Minnesota summed up her view of the importance of full collaboration with Head Start:

I think it's important for the strong messages about creative ways of cooperating to be shared at all levels of the organization. Not just the directors and not just the teachers…

The school district's local homeless liaison is a key partner who has responsibilities for the whole school district, as well as other responsibilities. One of those responsibilities, under the McKinney-Vento Act, is to ensure that children experiencing homelessness receive Head Start. It is important, however, to keep in mind that only 19% of school districts are able to provide services through McKinney-Vento funding, and most school districts do not have a full-time liaison. Refer to the table below for information about school district local homeless liaisons and how you can develop connections with them.

Topic Details
Mission of the school district local homeless liaisons
  • A district liaison for homeless and highly mobile students in Minneapolis, Minnesota describes her responsibilities.

    A district liaison for homeless and highly mobile students in Minneapolis, Minnesota describes her responsibilities:

    The responsibilities for the liaisons for K-12 school districts are broad, and the school district is charged with identifying all children and youth within that geographic area of that school district and not just in a particular set of schools. Sometimes I think that can be confusing, and people representing other organizations might wonder about the scope – the broadness of this – this community scope.

    There isn't just a single public school district taking care of all the kids in a geographic area. There are all these other public charters and it's different from one area to another. In Minnesota, we have many charter schools. I know there are other states and metropolitan areas that have a lot of charter schools as well – also private schools, whether parochial, religious, or other – and yet children and youth who are homeless often are not even identified in a school. And so this becomes very much community work.
  • A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland explains how she works with Head Start.

    A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland explains how she works with Head Start:

    I think a big piece is that Head Start individuals need to know that in order for us to increase the identification of homeless students, Head Start-aged homeless students, we've got to work together. One thing we've done here is we have supervisory staff from the Head Start office for our jurisdiction participating on our homeless steering committee meeting that meets once a month and that way we can keep up with what's new with the Head Start program and do our checks and balances – this is who we currently have enrolled as homeless at these schools in their Head Start programs, do you have anyone else? Did we miss anyone?

    I think it's important that they understand that you have to develop a partnership where you're meeting on a regular basis to provide updates on each other's program as well as to check and verify case loads.
  • An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district describes the difficulty of identifying the correct partners.

    An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district describes the difficulty of identifying the correct partners:

    Many local district personnel do not know the early education landscape in their communities, let alone their local partners. As we know, this landscape is often challenging to negotiate even for an early childhood person, so unless we make it easy for local homeless liaisons to identify partners with name, numbers, and contact person, it will remain an elusive connection. It is critical that homeless liaisons get invited to participate in Head Start meetings so they better understand how Head Start can support young children and their families experiencing homelessness. If they see a connection between reporting numbers of pre-K students served, benefits to their district, and how it can help share their work load with partnering programs willing to help, it can make a difference.
Challenges school district local homeless liaisons have in connecting to Head Start
  • Head Start often does planning and coordination in the summer, yet many liaisons do not work year-round and are not available at that time.
  • When children and families arrive in the middle of the year there may not be available slots in a program, and so liaisons may stop referring children because they assume there are no slots. Sometimes this leads to discounting Head Start as a partner, but it's important to find other things to partner on and to understand that building a long-term relationship will be helpful.
  • Both Head Start and school district staff have limited time so there's often a desire to see a payoff as quickly as possible for the time spent.
  • A school district local homeless liaison from Anchorage, Alaska elaborates on taking time to build trust in the relationship.

    An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district elaborates on taking time to build trust in the relationship:

    Initially, developing the relationship takes time It takes time to develop trust. Head Start has to see the benefit of this collaboration to participate at a high level of collaboration. The liaison has to initiate and follow through with regular contact and communication, especially at the beginning of the partnership. Some grantees are easier to work with than others. Sometimes the Performance Standards have created barriers for us, but once trust is built then all sorts of creative thinking and planning can occur.
Support offered by school district local homeless liaisons to Head Start
  • A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes how she supports Head Start.

    A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes how she supports Head Start:

    We participate in the Head Start staff development and they participate in ours. Once we've identified the families and that there are needs that those families have for those students, then we try to support those by way of gift cards or vouchers that we purchase using grant funds.
  • An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district lists what she does to support Head Start.

    An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district lists what she does to support Head Start:

    • Develop an MOU with our three local grantees;
    • Attend regular advisory meetings;
    • Provide transportation to families where Head start cannot (huge financial commitment, but with ARRA going away this will change);
    • Provide transportation for families to get physicals, medical, enrollment, emergencies, etc.;
    • Participate in staff development and training;
    • Serve as key contact person;
    • Help secure records, including providing vital statistic coupons for families to get lost birth certificates, helping with applications, and getting shot records;
    • Participate in family meetings;
    • Conduct home visits (some done jointly with Head Start staff);
    • Share data;
    • Conduct regular communication between staffs;
    • Troubleshoot problems or issues;
    • Advertise Head Start services;
    • Write grants which prioritize families experiencing homelessness;
    • Advocate at all levels: local, state, national (e.g., All three levels present together at state legislative offices);
    • Give presentations at the local, state, and national levels; and
    • Assist in kindergarten transitioning
Initiating contact between Head Start and the school district local homeless liaison
  • A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes a steering committee she created.

    A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes a steering committee she created:

    The majority of our Head Start programs are within the jurisdiction, so there are only two programs that operate outside of the jurisdiction (location-wise). When I first accepted this position, I developed a steering committee and I wanted to make sure the steering committee consisted of a representative from all the grade and age levels we were dealing with. I invited the supervisor of that department, and since that time he has sent two to three representatives to each meeting. We may call each other during the week; they know how to reach me and I know how to reach them. They know what the law says. Every year, either right before school starts or that first month that school begins, we do a training or staff development with all of their employees so they are clear what McKinney-Vento says and get rid of the income-eligibility issue, which does come up.

    I invited Head Start to participate in our monthly meetings, and as a result of that we're in constant contact with each other. To service your p-opulation, you have to have representatives from the different entities that you're working with. The Head Start staff person who attends the meeting is one of the family services supervisors.
Partnering with Head Start
  • A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes how she supported one family.

    A homeless supervisor for the homeless education program in Prince George's County, Maryland describes how she supported one family:

    I check with my families who are on the waiting list to find out if openings have occurred. We had a situation this school year where a family became homeless. The mom had some other kids who were school-aged kids. Initially she was not interested in putting her Head Start-aged child in school because she didn't work, but upon finding employment, she was desperate to get her child in the program. I spoke with our Head Start Family Service Coordinator concerning a family who applied during the current academic year and recently became homeless. The program had a recent vacancy, and worked with the Homeless office in order to ensure that the child was placed immediately. That's a success program.
  • A district liaison for homeless and highly mobile students in Minneapolis, Minnesota describes how she's worked with Head Start.

    A district liaison for homeless and highly mobile students in Minneapolis, Minnesota describes how she's worked with Head Start:

    One example of working well with Head Start is that they advocated with me for school bus safety stops at one of the large hotels in Minneapolis that has an extremely dangerous traffic area for children and youth to be picked up. It's the only way they can be picked up and it's incredibly dangerous. The Head Start staff have been very happy to participate with me and with us in advocating over a long period of time for that to be improved.
  • An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district describes how she assisted one family.

    An early childhood specialist with the Anchorage, Alaska school district describes how she assisted one family:

    A family who was experiencing homelessness became eligible for our program through a referral from our local housing agency. The family had two young children, one four years of age who would enter kindergarten in the fall. Because we have a partnership with KCI Head Start, we were quickly able to get the child into one of the school-based Head Start classrooms where an opening had just occurred (we did this within two days of the opening).

    Our office assisted with document procurement and transportation (school district bus in the morning and Anchor ride vehicle in the afternoon) as they moved several times before becoming housed. Our program provided two days of cabs for mom and the child while busing was being set up so the child could attend immediately. Several times when the family missed the bus in the morning, we provided a cab for mom and her children to the school for school stability purposes. We also supported the family with transportation to family nights at the school, and to the Kindergarten Transition Night at the main Head Start center.

    We gave the child a backpack from our office with crayons, markers, books, paper, glue, scissors, etc. In addition, we provided snowpants, boots, warm coat, and hats/gloves as the family had arrived here recently from Hawaii. Our early childhood liaison checks in monthly with the family and has visited the child numerous times at school. When a situation arose concerning child protection issues, we all worked together for a positive outcome for the child and family. We staff children together to determine unmet needs or ongoing concerns and decide jointly who and how to assist.
Formal and informal agreements to facilitate partnerships
  • A Memorandum of Agreement [20.72 KB] that was facilitated by the school district's local homeless liaison between the Anchorage, Alaska School District's Title 1 Child in Transition/Homeless Project and Kid's Corps.

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Videos About Community Collaboration

Khari Garvin, North Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Director

McKinney-Vento liaisons

McKinney-Vento network

State Collaboration Office

Khari Garvin is the director of the North Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. He talks about:

  • McKinney-Vento liaisons.
    Select this video [00:00:59] | Read the transcript

    McKinney-Vento liaisons

    McKinney-Vento liaisons will be very, very useful to Head Start programs. For one, again, they can inform the policies or new policies and procedures that Head Start grantees may be seeking to implement to – to be of better service to homeless children and families. But likewise, as – as McKinney-Vento liaisons serve children and families who perhaps are in the – the K-12 system, those families may have siblings, young siblings, who are Early Head Start or Head Start age. And so the McKinney-Vento liaison can certainly help connect that program with younger siblings who would certainly be eligible for Early Head Start or Head Start services. And then, again, I think the last thing would be in terms of helping programs to be sensitive to the needs of that particular population. I think McKinney-Vento liaisons can help with training and informing staff who will be working with these families.

  • McKinney-Vento network.
    Select this video [00:00:36] | Read the transcript

    McKinney-Vento network

    Head Start programs really can align intentionally with the McKinney-Vento network to make sure that the families that they're serving are receiving what they need. So that means regular meetings, for one, between the two, that is between the Head Start grantee and the McKinney-Vento network. I think joint trainings would be very useful as well, that is for Head Start staff and staff who are connected to the McKinney-Vento network so that we're all not only teaching and practicing the same thing but we are collectively taking the step forward together as we serve the interest of homeless families. So I think those are two things.

  • State Collaboration Office.
    Select this video [00:01:01] | Read the transcript

    State Collaboration Office

    As a Head Start State Collaboration Office director, serving the – the interest of homeless children and families is – is one of our eight priorities – one of my eight priorities. And I think that the best way that – that I can do that is, first of all, information sharing, making sure that we are offering timely, relevant, and accurate information for Head Start programs with regard to the – the unique needs of homeless children and families. I think also putting some mechanisms in place to stimulate partnerships between Head Start grantees and others – McKinney-Vento network, advocacy groups for homelessness. I think that if – I think that we can put our money in places that can make it very easy for them to – to assemble and – and – and making sure that they're talking to the right people in terms of their planning. And – and the last thing I think is offering many grant opportunities to Head Start grantees where we can, putting money into their hands – to also help them to convene such information sharing opportunities.

Grace Whitney, Connecticut Head Start State Collaboration Director

Working with state legislators

Strengthening partnerships

Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison

Grace Whitney is the director of the Connecticut Head Start State Collaboration Office. She talks about:

  • Working with state legislators.
    Select this video [00:01:42] | Read the transcript

    Working with state legislators

    One of our small grantees was using their capacity-building grant to hold a series of focus groups and discussions in their community. And what they did was they recruited families who were using the various shelter systems – domestic violence, homelessness, and the substance abuse treatment residences – and – and then having Head Start staff together to have discussions and various other community representatives, including their state legislators. And on several occasions they had state legislators attend those – those focus groups, and the legislators actually were a part of finding resources for families, which was really wonderful because it wasn't just Head Start that was supporting those families. The state legislators were able to help find jobs and – and help generate some opportunities for housing for families, and it just was a wonderful example of Head Start being able to be really – creating partnerships in the community that don't necessarily just grow from Head Start itself and its own resources but really other resources within the community for families. And that was very successful.

    The other thing is, by – certainly, by inviting state legislators to any kind of community forum like that, they really did set up an opportunity for families experiencing homelessness to share their very stories and experiences with the state legislators. And when that happens, that means that state laws and state policy are created with a lot more information behind them and state legislators really then have access to what's going on with families on the ground.

  • Strengthening partnerships.
    Select this video [00:00:58] | Read the transcript

    Strengthening partnerships

    What we found is helpful is to expand on the opportunities for shelter programs and Head Start programs to be working more closely together. We've incorporated activities to strengthen partnerships between shelters for families experiencing homelessness, shelters for families who are victims of domestic violence, and then also substance abuse residences for women and their children. And by encouraging those partnerships at least the sheltered families and the residence families are identified. The other thing is it's more difficult, I think, to find families who may be doubled-up and moving frequently, and so one of the things that we've tried to encourage is that programs participate in their annual point in time count. And those are usually done annually by our State Coalition to End Homelessness because then they become much more familiar with, you know, being able to go out into communities and – and identify families who may – may not be in shelters.

  • Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison.
    Select this video [00:01:09] | Read the transcript

    Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison

    I've been very fortunate in that I've had some state collaboration funds to be able to make available to grantees over the last six years; and also have been very fortunate to have a very collaborative McKinney-Vento state liaison partner. And so what we've done is we've worked together to put small amounts of money together for scholarships to – to some of the conferences for state teams, whether they be within our own state or some of the national conferences. And so we have McKinney-Vento liaisons, we have Head Start family service managers, and we have, oftentimes, representatives of some of our shelters and homeless coalitions that go together as a team; and so they're able to go and then plan and bring back information to their communities. What – what the McKinney-Vento state liaison and I also have been doing for many years is reading one another's proposals when we put out small grants, and that oftentimes informs one another of what some of the needs are in our communities.

Mary Lynne Diggs, South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Director

Partnering with the McKinney-Vento liaison

Possible partners

Mary Lynne Diggs is the director of the South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. She talks about:

  • Partnering with the McKinney-Vento liaison.
    Select this video [00:00:27] | Read the transcript

    Partnering with the McKinney-Vento liaison

    In South Carolina, as the homeless rows began to grow, we were approached by the McKinney-Vento coordinator, which was really a – an added opportunity for us. And for the last six years, we have partnered with the McKinney-Vento liaison at our state Department of Education. We have served on their advisory committee and they have served on ours. We have joint training and information sessions.

  • Possible partners.
    Select this video [00:01:05] | Read the transcript

    Possible partners

    When we talk about homelessness we quite often think of case management, but we need to be reminded, in Head Start and with partners, who our partners can be and who they are. We have found that AARP has been a wonderful resource for us. Our resource and referral agencies have been a wonderful resource. Our faith-based community has been a wonderful resource for us, as well as our transitional shelters. And there is nothing that precludes each partner from sharing with the other. We're very proud to say that the South Carolina Head Start Association has shared some of its in-kind. Quite often, the Collaboration Office accesses in-kind; and because we're in a state agency we can't use that in-kind, but we can share it through the Association. And they in turn have made a commitment to share their in-kind, be it toys, new books, clothes, pencils, pens, crayons for children. Department stores have been very kind to us and our transitional shelters are part of that distribution.

Mary Vanderwert & Mary Lynne Diggs, Minnesota and South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Directors

Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison

Mary Vanderwert is the director of the Minnesota Head State Collaboration Office and Mary Lynne Diggs is the director of the South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. They discuss:

  • Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison. [00:03:05] | Read the transcript

    Working with the McKinney-Vento liaison

    In South Carolina, I guess, with each of the 85 school districts there is a liaison, and some school districts receive sub-grants which will allow them to go beyond their basic scope of work of serving children. They have seed money for activities and for general access on behalf of those children. Those grants are competitive, and this year our understanding is that there is a larger pool for the sub-grants. In our working together – and Mary and I have had discussions about how we bring the two together – we each share the identities of, the contact information of a Head Start grantee, a Head Start director, or a partnership staff person with the local liaisons. And by – in turn, they share their information and we share it with Head Start. And Mary was sharing with me that she quite often visits – and she may want to share that with us – that she visits the liaisons in their meetings.

    That's right. Our – our state liaison often has meetings with the liaisons in the state – those that know they are – and I've been invited to – to their meetings to talk about Head Start and Head Start's responsibilities to children who are homeless and how the two can work together. And – and vice-versa. We have Head Start State Association meetings and other meetings that Head Start programs are together and the McKinney-Vento liaison from the state comes and will give them an orientation to what the responsibilities of the liaisons are and how they can work together. And I do the same thing. I actually – I actually go to the school districts on behalf of the – the state liaison to talk about – I like to talk about the impacts on children, but also to talk about how Head Start can – can partner with them to serve the – the really, very young children in their community that are homeless.

    And in South Carolina we've had some of the same experiences. As a collaboration director, I have served on the advisory committee for the McKinney-Vento program in our state. And this year, we are working toward a joint activity. The State Head Start Association Conference with community action agencies, community services block grant entities, that provide low-income energy assistance and weatherization, and emergency services will gather and have a joint conference. One day will be a focus on homeless issues – and our McKinney-Vento partner is assisting us in accessing a keynote speaker – and we will see what services are and are not available. It's almost like an asset mapping for our state, so we look forward to that this spring. And this is the first time we've had joint conferences with a focus on an issue that affects all of us.

Tamara Perez, Social Worker and Parent Involvement Coordinator

Community resources

Mary Vanderwert is the director of the Minnesota Head State Collaboration Office and Mary Lynne Diggs is the director of the South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. They discuss:

  • Tamara Perez is the Head Start social worker and parent involvement coordinator at Bright Beginnings, Inc. Child Development Center, an Early Head Start/Head Start center in Washington, DC. She talks about:

    • Community resources. [00:00:27] | Read the transcript

      Community resources

      It is important that Head Start builds and maintain partnerships with community resources that address homelessness on various levels. Relationships can be created with government or nonprofit agencies such as: transitional housing programs; family shelters; emergency shelters; job training programs; GED classes; and mental health agencies.

Shirley Fan-Chan, former Chief Training and Technical Assistance Officer

A network of agencies

Collaborating with school systems

Shirley Fan-Chan is the former chief training and technical assistance officer from Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit, private organization in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Horizons for Homeless Children has two direct services programs for homeless young children and families: 1) Community Children's Center, which serves all the homeless young children living in the family shelters in Boston; and 2) Place-Based Programs, which are placed at the Family shelters across the state of Massachusetts. She talks about:

  • A network of agencies.
    Select this video [00:00:36] | Read the transcript

    A network of agencies

    Many states have created a network called The Interagency Council to End Homelessness. The network consists of agencies from both state and non-governmental social service providers serving homeless families either living in the shelters or non-shelter settings. The network is a place for all agencies that can assist Head Start programs in serving families experiencing homelessness. Many communities also begin to recognize the importance of expanding networks and partnerships to serve homeless families. Many of them also create coalitions to bring agencies together to collaborate and enhance services.

  • Collaborating with school systems.
    Select this video [00:00:39] | Read the transcript

    Collaborating with school systems

    Head Start staff need to understand the mission of the state homeless coordinators and homeless liaisons. They are the key personnel in the school systems who provide support to the school-aged children who are homeless. It is important for Head Start programs to collaborate with them because many homeless families with school-aged children might have already established a relationship with the homeless coordinators or liaisons at the schools. Therefore, they will be able to make a referral if they identify a family with infants, toddlers, or pre-school-aged children. Liaisons also might have many resources established from the local community to help homeless families.

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Voices from the Field

Read about what some Head Start programs are doing to expand their community connections to support families experiencing homelessness.

Head Start programs that use existing community partnerships:

  • A rural program in Alabama describes the advantage of being a rural community

    The advantage of being a rural community

    The Head Start director in Cheaha, Alabama describes the advantage of being a rural community in serving families in homeless situations:

    One big advantage for being rural is whatever services are available, we know about them. It's not so large that there are things going on that we don't even know they offer. Establishing good partnerships with different agencies in all six counties gives us an advantage of who to call or who to contact when a need arises among any of the families. Each community itself is different because what works in one county may not work in another one.
  • A rural program in Michigan partners with local preschool programs

    Partners with local preschool programs

    The Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA) Head Start program has partnerships with the local preschool programs. This helps support families experiencing homelessness by making sure placement is as immediate as possible. If Head Start doesn't have a slot, then they check with the other preschools.

  • A rural program in Alabama established a formal partnership with public housing

    Formal partnership with public housing

    Cheaha, Alabama established a formal partnership with public housing. When a family experiencing homelessness comes to Head Start, they can send them to their point of contact in public housing.

    The housing authority renovated a Head Start center for us and Head Start doesn't have to pay anything, including rent, for a year. The only requirement is to give preference to people in public housing. The Head Start family advocate often takes the family to the public housing facility and helps them complete the application.

Head Start programs that initiate or strengthen community partnerships:

  • An urban program in Indiana establishes a partnership with a housing organization

    Partnership with a housing organization

    Indianapolis, Indiana participates with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), an organization that provides Head Start families with housing opportunities. CHIP also works with Head Start to develop staff trainings and to bring more awareness to families experiencing homelessness, as families are becoming more and more likely to experience homelessness due to the economy.

  • A suburban program in Los Angeles strengthens the partnership with the McKinney-Vento liaison

    Strengthening the partnership with the McKinney-Vento liaison

    When a family has a complex set of problems, such as those associated with homelessness, Norwalk-La Mirada in California often contacts the local McKinney-Vento liaison. They work jointly with her because she has many connections. The McKinney-Vento liaison attends to families with elementary-aged children who also might have younger children and she then recommends these families to Head Start.

Head Start programs that provide insight about Head Start to organizations or become involved with organizations:

  • An urban program in Ohio meets regularly with community organizations

    Regular meetings with community organizations

    The Case Manager liaison for homelessness for The Child Development Council of Franklin County (CDCFC) Head Start in Columbus Ohio meets with different community organizations every three months. She goes to the Project Connect meetings where they are trying to eliminate barriers. Participants in the meetings include people from the housing community, CPO property management, CHMA housing, and private landlords. The meetings also cover topics other than housing, for example, they have people who are involved with employment, and education. The liaison also meets with other community organizations every three months to talk about what is happening in the community, including information on crime and drugs, alcohol and the Prisoner Reentry Initiative programs. The liaison shares the information and resources with other case managers.

  • A rural program in Alabama partners with banks

    Partners with banks

    Cheaha, Alabama has established relationships with some local banks to provide training for parents on how to save money, get their credit reports cleared, and apply for Habitat for Humanity or the Fannie Mae program. A representative from the bank discusses budgeting and the importance of saving consistently.

  • An urban program in Indiana disseminates information about Head Start to child welfare organizations

    Disseminates information about Head Start to child welfare organizations

    Indianapolis, Indiana's social services coordinator and department staff work with other child welfare organizations. Together they disseminate information about Head Start, and often families experiencing homelessness are referred to Head Start from these organizations. In return, Head Start assists the organizations by providing some needed services.

  • A rural program in Alabama makes connections to facilitate referrals

    Makes connections to facilitate referrals

    Cheaha, Alabama displays posters at shelters, domestic violence refuges, and other places where families experiencing homelessness may be. Such places know to make referrals to Head Start whenever they get a family in crisis. They do this through the Department of Human Resources. Head Start is on their list of referrals. The Head Start director in Cheaha, Alabama describes making connections:

    One of the big things is to get the people who are the service providers working together because a lot of times other service providers know about families who need us that we don't know about them and they'll make a referral. Some of our partnerships have been set up through other partners and they connect us to that group or we connect them and it keeps the circle going. We don't do the food and we can't pay the light bill for them, but we know people who can.

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Last Reviewed: April 2013

Last Updated: January 6, 2017