Strategies for Head Start — Child Care Partnerships Revisited

Since the 1990s, federal and state governments have increasingly supported partnerships between Head Start and child care programs. This article provides an overview of the approaches and issues related to establishing Head Start-child care partnerships.

 

Since the 1990s, federal and state governments have increasingly supported partnerships between child care and Head Start programs. The goal of the partnerships has been to create high quality, seamless services for low-income children and their families. Head Start has long encouraged collaboration and partnerships as one of its many program goals. In the mid-to-late 1990s, a marked change occurred when Head Start’s patterns of operation were challenged. New welfare legislation had been implemented, impacting the work patterns for Head Start families.

There was a shift among Head Start programs to move from half-day programs to full-day, full year programs. Funding opportunities were extended as an incentive to Head Start programs to partner with child care for the purpose of providing full-day, full-year services. Developing new and creative strategies for providing full-day services between Head Start and child care has had its challenges.

According to the Head Start-Child Care Partnership Study published in 2000, Head Start programs faced three challenges:

  • How to identify that its own agency had a culture that supported collaboration and partnership.
  • How to examine the agency’s cultural values and their relevance to choices required by adding full-day, full-year services.
  • How to change the agency’s culture, when an agency’s culture was incompatible with the child care program, then it might have to change its culture to successfully deliver extended services.

In both Head Start and child care, collaboration efforts extend to linking with other key services for young children and their families, such as medical, dental and mental health care, nutrition, services to children with disabilities, child support, adult and family literacy, and employment training. These comprehensive services are crucial in helping families progress towards self-sufficiency and in helping parents provide a better future for their young children.

In addition, Head Start and child care have their strengths—child care brings its full-day experience to the table and Head Start brings its comprehensive services and Head Start Program Performance Standards. Bringing these experiences together is a way to build on each other’s strengths which would support the diversity within the child care system.

Through partnerships, Head Start and child care agencies combine staff and funds to provide full-day, full-year services which meet Head Start Program Performance Standards. Specifically, 45 CFR 1304.41 (a)(2)(viii) states that “by collaborating with child care providers, agencies meet the needs of enrolled families requiring full-day services (or non-traditional child care schedules) or services for siblings and, at the same time, promote continuity of care. In addition, the overall quality of local child care services is enhanced by sharing local resources, training, and knowledge.”

The increasing need for full-day services for low-income families has prompted many programs and communities to design more innovative approaches to combining Head Start and child care funding streams to provide quality seamless services to children and families. This narrative presents an overview of the approaches and issues related to establishing Head Start-child care partnerships.

Three such strategies for combining Head Start and child care services  are (1) Head Start Family Child Care; (2) Head Start services provided at a child care center; and (3) expanding Head Start to provide full-day, full-year services.

Head Start Family Child Care
The Head Start program contracts with licensed family child care providers, who remain independent rather than becoming Head Start employees. The child care provider is also the Head Start teacher and receives a great deal of support from the local program staff, including training, technical assistance, supplies and materials, and participation in a provider support group.

Head Start program staff works closely with the enrolled families to ensure that they receive comprehensive social and health services. The provider gets most of their income from child care subsidies, although they may receive a limited amount of funds to cover the work that is done as a Head Start provider, such as going above and beyond child care licensing standards, including home visits, curriculum planning, screening, staffing, and record-keeping. For more informoation on family child care, see the Head Start Performance Standards on the ECLKC.

Head Start Provided at a Child Care Center
This model can follow essentially the same arrangement outlined above, although staffing models can vary considerably. In some cases, the Head Start program provides the family service and health staff, while paying the center for some or all of the cost of child development services. Other programs have all staff work for the center, which operates under a contract with Head Start. In at least one program, Head Start funds are also used to increase staff salaries so that Head Start qualified staff can be hired and retained.

Expanding Head Start to Full-day, Full year
In this model, child care subsidies are usually accessed to pay for some sort of extended services. The arrangement raises a host of funding issues, which vary from state to state, concerning the allocation of costs between Head Start and child care. One of the advantages of this model is that it allows the Head Start program to have maximum control over the quality of the full-day services. If the program can access additional funding sources (e.g., United Way, local businesses) the program may also be able to provide comprehensive services to at-risk children who do not qualify for Head Start.

Types of Partnerships
In order to capture the diverse range of the types of partnerships between Head Start and child care, a thorough review of materials relevant to Head Start partnerships was conducted by the authors of the 2000 Head Start – Child Care Partnerships Study . Data sources included the Department of Health and Human Services, the Quality in Linking Together Project  (QUILT), Children’s Defense Fund as well as interview with numerous experts in the field about their experiences in working with partnerships.

As a result of this extensive information gathering, four types of partnerships were created in an effort to meet the analytic needs of the Partnership Study. The following four types of partnerships were identified:

  • Type I: Partnerships that used non-Head Start funds to lengthen the Head Start day and year.
  • Type II: Partnerships that linked with child care or other programs to provide full-day, full-year comprehensive services to Head Start-eligible children already enrolled in other programs.
  • Type III: Partnerships that linked with child care or other programs to provide full-day, full-year comprehensive services to Head Start-eligible children not already enrolled in other programs.
  • Type IV: Partnerships that linked with a family child care provider or family child care network.

Although specifics of each partnership vary from program to program, such as, financial structure, staffing and location of children, these four types seem to encompass the majority of Head Start partnership patterns. It should also be noted that Type I is different from the other three. While Types II, III, and IV are service/programmatic partnerships, Type I represents purely a financial partnership. In addition, some Head Start programs will link with multiple partners, employing a combination of the partnership types.

This typology provides a framework for thinking about the various approaches to partnering. It also serves as a guide for local programs to examine the nature of collaborations within the context of emerging partnerships, especially in light of other early childhood initiatives, such as pre-K partnerships.

Summary
This article was aimed at revisiting the partnerships that have long been established among Head Start and child care. The Office of Head Start, (formerly the Head Start Bureau) has long encouraged collaboration and partnerships as one of its many goals. As emphasized in the Head Start legislation that reauthorized Head Start, the Head Start State Collaboration Offices will play an important role in building partnerships at the state and local level to “promote better linkages between Head Start agencies and other child and family agencies” and to “assist Head Start agencies to coordinate activities . . .  to make full-working day and full calendar year services available to children.”

Collaboration and partnerships at the State and local level ensure Head Start’s participation in systems-integration strategies to benefit low-income children and their families. In addition, these collective efforts are gaining momentum from governors nationwide to prioritize and fund pre-kindergarten education. These efforts will also facilitate collaboration between Head Start and Early Head Start programs with State and local entities that provide child and family services.

Tools to Use
The implementation of full-day, full-year services may seem to be merely an extension of part-day, part-year services, but in fact, the collaborations have sensitized Head Start to the demands of offering full-day services, so long experienced by child care. The increases in the number of services, coupled with the need for increased quality, necessitate new apparatus, and more collaborative approaches to early childhood education.

As early childhood programs continue to explore ways to build on each others strengths to improve child care services, the following list of tools will link Head Start and child care programs seeking to mobilize their resources in meeting the needs of quality care for young children and their families.

Child Care: What You Can Do

Checklist for Developing a Partnership Agreement/Contract

A Fiscal Management Checklist for Partnerships

How Are We Doing? A Self-Assessment Tool for Partnerships

Partnership Issues: Employees or Independent Contractors

Resources

Bancroft, John (1997) Strategies for Head Start–Child Care Partnerships (1997). Head Start Bulletin, 62.

Kagan, S. L., Verzaro-O’Brien, M.; Kim, U, and M. Formica (2000). Head Start-Child Care Partnership Study. Yale University The Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy.  

Quality in Linking Together (QUILT) project was discontinued in August 2006. Materials developed by the QUILT project are now available on the Partnerships, Alliances, and Collaboration Techniques (PACT), an initiative of the National Child Care Information Center (NCCIC), a service of the Child Care Bureau, provides resources, training and technical assistance for collaborative early care and education systems.

Improving School Readiness for Head Start Act of 2007(Public Law 110-134), 110th Congress, signed into law by President George Bush, December 12, 2007.

Strategies for Head Start — Child Care Partnerships Revisited. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2008. English.

Last Reviewed: October 2012

Last Updated: November 13, 2014