The Ramirez Family: Meet the Family

Ms. Ramirez and her two children, three-year-old Inez and nine-month-old Paulo, come into your center. Ms. Ramirez tells you the following:

"I need to put my two children in Head Start. We moved to California from Texas so I could get work. I've been working here for a few weeks and got paid, but the check bounced. I didn't have any money to pay my rent so I had to leave my apartment. We're staying with another family right now but I don't know how long we can stay there. I'm trying to find work so we can get another apartment, but I need you to take my children so I have time to find work. Can you take them right away?"

Conversation With Ms. Ramirez
Before you have a conversation with Ms. Ramirez, you may want to look at the Explore Information tab for procedures and tips to help you determine eligibility. Have some initial friendly conversation and then, once you are ready, invite Ms. Ramirez to talk with you in a private room. Review the questions below and select the ones you will ask her. Note: In real-life situations, you can weave these questions into your conversations with families.

  1. Where are you living now?

    Ms. Ramirez responds:

    I just need my kids to be in Head Start.

    What Just Happened?

    Perhaps Ms. Ramirez didn’t answer the question because she is very anxious and preoccupied with her living situation. When someone comes in and is in a very stressful situation, it is important to offer support and keep your questions to a minimum.

    Ask questions that have not already been answered for you by the parent. For example, Ms. Ramirez already told you that she is staying with another family because she had to leave her apartment. Rather than questioning someone in a stressful situation, it would be more helpful to make statements that offer support. Instead of focusing on the issue of homelessness, address issues that the person brings up. For example, Ms. Ramirez spoke about looking for work so you might want to get an idea of the type of work she is looking for.

  2. Is the place you’re staying close to here?

    Ms. Ramirez responds with curiosity:

    Yes, I walked here. It’s pretty close to where I’m staying. Why are you asking me that?

    What Just Happened?

    When someone comes in and appears to be very stressed, rather than adding to the stress by asking many questions, try to address urgent concerns and determine ways you can support them. For example, asking Ms. Ramirez if she is close to your Head Start center helps you determine whether your center is the most convenient for her family. By replying, “Why are you asking me that?” Ms. Ramirez may be worried by your question. To ease her concern, make sure you explain that you are just trying to help her find a center that is closest to where she lives.

  3. Have you been in situations where you have had to move around a lot?

    Ms. Ramirez responds:

    Yes. We move where the work is.

    What Just Happened?

    In some cases, this may be a good question and it will help you determine whether a family has a regular nighttime residence. In this context, where Ms. Ramirez has identified herself as experiencing homelessness, this question does not give you any additional information. Furthermore, it may sound like you are accusing her of not keeping a job and of not being responsible.

    When someone comes in and identifies him or herself as being in a homeless situation, it is very important to listen to his or her concerns and address those concerns. Good follow-up questions include:

    • What type of work do you do?
    • I’m assuming you work in agriculture. What type of crop do you follow?
  4. What kind of job are you looking for?

    Ms. Ramirez responds:

    I’m used to working in the fields. I’d like to do that kind of work.

    What Just Happened?

    When you ask this question, begin by referring to something Ms. Ramirez said. For example: "You mentioned that you’ve been looking for a job." This lets Ms. Ramirez know you are listening to her concerns and trying to work with her to address them.

    Listen to what Ms. Ramirez talks about and use that as a starting point to offer support without sounding like you are policing her. Your goal is to help her overall, not just address her homeless situation. In asking her what kind of job she is interested in, you are speaking to one of her important concerns: getting a job. In addition, if there is a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program close by, you might want to ask her if she would be more comfortable participating in that program.

  5. Do you have any of your children’s records with you, such as immunization information?

    Ms. Ramirez responds:

    I don’t have any of this information now. Maybe it’s in Texas where we used to live. Can you still take my children?

    What Just Happened?

    Before asking this question, it is good to let Ms. Ramirez know why you are asking it. Explain that you need to ask some questions to make sure she understands all the services that are provided in Head Start/Early Head Start. Let her know that although there is some information you need to get from her, right now the goal is to get her settled.

    Good follow-up questions include:

    • Were your children in a Head Start or other early childhood program in Texas?
    • Do you remember the name of the program?
    • Do you think they might have immunization or health records for your children?

The Ramirez Family: Explore Information

Before you make your recommendation, do the following:

  • Consider the Ramirez family’s circumstances.
  • Review the information in the links below.
  • If possible, discuss information about the Ramirez family with a colleague.

The Ramirez Family: Make a Recommendation

Step 1: Review the information about the Ramirez family (Meet the Family tab)
Step 2: Read background information on eligibility (Explore Information tab)
Step 3: Reflect on "Conversation with Ms. Ramirez" (Meet the Family tab)
Step 4: Make a recommendation to your supervisor about whether the Ramirez family is
experiencing homelessness and therefore eligible for Head Start services.

Select the email option with the message that you might send to your supervisor.
Is the Ramirez family experiencing homelessness and therefore eligible for Head Start services?

Email Option 1:

Your Supervisor Responds to Your Email:

There’s a problem with your recommendation. Please, think it through a little more and send another recommendation.

You indicated that Ms. Ramirez told you that she is in a homeless situation; therefore, her children are automatically eligible for Head Start. Based on the Head Start Act*, Ms. Ramirez does not need to wait while you verify her circumstances. You can consider her children eligible for Head Start services immediately and then begin to collect the required records.

*Sec. 640(m)(2)(as amended December 12, 2007)

Email Option 2:

Your Supervisor Responds to Your Email:

Thanks! This is an appropriate recommendation. Since the Ramirez family’s experiences are represented by the homelessness definition in the McKinney-Vento Act, please proceed.

You indicated that Ms. Ramirez told you that she is in a homeless situation; therefore, her children are automatically eligible for Head Start. Your email response indicates that you know the steps to take. Based on the Head Start Act*, if someone is in a homeless situation, the first thing to do is consider the children eligible for Head Start services while you collect the required records. It is important to be as supportive and helpful as possible to someone who is already experiencing a stressful situation.

Note: Depending upon state licensing laws, your program may opt to provide modified services while you acquire immunization paperwork.

*Sec. 640(m)(2)(as amended December 12, 2007)

Email Option 3:

Your Supervisor Responds to Your Recommendation:

There’s a problem with your recommendation. Please, think it through a little more and send another recommendation.

You indicated that Ms. Ramirez told you that she is in a homeless situation; therefore, her children are automatically eligible for Head Start. Based on the Head Start Act*, she does not need to produce documentation to verify her circumstances before you can determine eligibility. Once her children are determined eligible, then you can help her obtain the required records.

*Sec. 640(m)(2)(as amended December 12, 2007)

 

The Turner Family: Meet Another Family

Last Updated: July 9, 2014