Attendance: Analyze Enrollment

Attendance includes issues that arise once a child is enrolled, such as tracking whether a child is present in the program on a regular basis, following up when a child is absent, and paying special attention to the classroom environment. Each program needs a process for attendance that ensures that families experiencing homelessness receive the immediate support and services they need so their children can and will attend Head Start or Early Head Start on a regular basis and can be successfully integrated into the class.

Your Task #1

Evan is a 4-year-old boy who is experiencing homelessness. He has been attending his Head Start program regularly for three months, but has been absent for the past two days. If Evan was in your program, what would you do? After you have your ideas, find out what one program does.

What one program does to track and follow up

The internal systems manager in the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA) Head Start program describes their system for monitoring and following up on attendance. Although they use this system for all their children, it is particularly helpful in following up quickly on absences of children in homeless situations.

We use a web-based tracking system that allows us to track all attendance records. When a child is absent, it is recorded, including why they are absent. We enter all contacts made by staff into case notes. These case notes are accessible for all employees working with the family. If there is a case note that needs immediate attention, all employees working with the family are notified via email. The system allows reports to be generated showing follow-up.

Your Task #2

Krista is a 2 1/2-year-old girl who just moved into a homeless shelter with her mother. The shelter partners with an Early Head Start program that currently has an opening. Krista will attend that program. If Krista was in your program, what would you do to help her feel comfortable in the classroom? After you have your ideas, read what one program does to make a child who is experiencing homelessness feel comfortable.

What one program does to help a child feel comfortable

The education specialist in the Head Start program of Franklin County, Columbus Ohio describes a special project in their program to help children experiencing homelessness feel comfortable:

Our program partners with the YWCA, which is a homeless shelter in a state-of-the-art building. Families stay there for a certain amount of time and the children go to the Head Start program which is in the building. One activity in the classroom was to make a picture book with actual pictures from the building, including the living area, dining area, classrooms, and outdoor gardens. Every time there is a new child, the teacher reads the book to the group or to the new child individually. It lets that child know that they’re not the only one, that they’re all living there, and that they’re all going through this right now.

Attendance: Explore Information

Before you work on the attendance element of your own enrollment plan, do the following:

  • Review the information in the links below.
  • Discuss with a colleague how the information might apply to your enrollment plan.

Attendance: Build Your Plan

In creating your enrollment plan, use the checklist below as you review and develop the attendance element of your plan to ensure that it addresses families experiencing homelessness. For more information, select the Tell me more links.

  • I have reviewed the attendance ideas in the Analyze Enrollment and Explore Information tabs. Tell me more

    I have reviewed the attendance ideas

    Consider the following questions:

    • Did you think that the attendance ideas from Ohio and California were reasonable and addressed the issues?
    • Do you think the tracking strategy ensures that you will know whether a child experiencing homelessness is attending the Head Start program on a regular basis?
    • Do you think the classroom strategy will help the child adapt to the classroom?
  • I have considered whether any of the attendance ideas in the Analyze Enrollment and Explore Information tabs will work in my program. Tell me more

    I have considered whether any of the attendance ideas will work in my program

    Consider the following questions:

    • Can you use any of the attendance strategies in your own program? Which ones?
    • Are there any of the attendance strategies that will not work in your program? Which ones? Why won’t they work?
    • Are there other attendance strategies you might want to include in your enrollment plan?
  • I have thought about my attendance strategies and how I might change them to help families experiencing homelessness. Tell me more

    I have thought about my attendance strategies

    Consider the following questions:

    • Do your current attendance strategies ensure that you will know whether a child experiencing homelessness is attending Head Start regularly? Do you have a system in place to follow up on absences immediately?
    • What kind of attendance strategies will work in your program?
    • What type of attendance strategies should you include in your enrollment plan that will support families experiencing homelessness?
  • I have begun to formulate (or update my existing) attendance strategies. Tell me more

    I have begun to formulate (or update my existing) attendance strategies

    Consider the following questions:

    • Is there information in the Explore Information tab that can help you create or update your attendance strategies?
    • Do you need to change your existing attendance strategies to take into account families experiencing homelessness? How should you change them?
    • What attendance strategies do you need to include in your enrollment plan to support families experiencing homelessness?
    • Have you reviewed your attendance strategies to ensure that they support families and children experiencing homelessness? What did you determine?

Last Updated: July 9, 2014