The Florida Head Start State Collaboration Office (FLHSSCO) is housed at Florida's Office of Early Learning, Florida Department of Education. The Florida Institute of Education (FIE) at the University of North Florida is the grantee. Established in 1982 as a statewide research center, FIE provides statewide leadership to improve education at all levels by working collaboratively with Florida's universities, community colleges, public schools, school readiness agencies, and communities to:
- Foster collaborative programs that address critical educational needs by supporting innovation and engaging in problem-focused research;
- Increase access to and use of the knowledge and skills needed to improve practice and inform decision-making; and
- Enhance achievement for all students, especially those at risk.
FLHSSCO is federally funded with the specific purpose of supporting and improving collaboration between Head Start and other providers of educational, medical, and social services in Florida. The Office coordinates federal, state, and local policy to help ensure a unified early care and education system. FLHSSCO also works to coordinate activities with the governor's office, key state agencies, and other early childhood associations and advocacy groups.
Major partnerships include:
- Florida Head Start Association
- Association of Early Learning Coalitions
- Florida Department of Education
- Florida Department of Children and Families
- Florida Department of Health
- Agency for Health Care Administration
- Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
- Florida Association for the Education of Young Children
- Florida's Children and Youth Cabinet
- Florida's Children's Forum
- Florida's Children's Services Councils
- Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida
- United Way of Florida
- Florida Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers
- Florida Community College Early Childhood Educators' Network
- Expanding Opportunities for the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities
- Florida's Transition Project
- Florida Dental Hygiene Association
In addition, the State Advisory Council on Early Education and Care (SAC) is Florida's state advisory council. FLHSSCO worked in concert with Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems staff to create the SAC, and worked with the governor's office to facilitate membership selection. FLHSSCO helped to develop the project application and has actively attended meetings and served on various committees.
The major goals of FLHSSCO include:
- Improving access to comprehensive health services (medical, dental, mental health, and nutrition) across the full continuum of preventive, early intervention, and treatment services for low-income pregnant women and children.
- Increasing availability and accessibility of full-day/full-year services.
- Building upon Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) initiatives to support high-quality child care for low-income children and families, including services to military families.
- Promoting expanded partnerships with education entities to align curricula and assessments, facilitate smooth transitions, and develop shared data systems.
- Supporting the development of a comprehensive system of professional development.
- Supporting collaboration with welfare systems such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to promote family goals toward financial stability.
- Facilitating coordination with child welfare services to ensure access to Head Start services for foster care and protective service children and enhance parent engagement programs.
- Promoting partnerships with community service entities to reduce incidents of domestic violence and child abuse and strengthen the family environment.
- Promoting partnerships to enhance Head Start quality through family literacy services and reading readiness programs.
- Expanding opportunities in Head Start for the inclusion of children with disabilities.
- Supporting the coordination and collaboration with organizations offering outreach and services for homeless children and families.
Major accomplishments in Florida through work in the FLHSSCO include:
- Created the State Advisory Council on Early Education and Care.
- Improved oral health outcomes in all indicators, as measured by the Program Information Report, from below the national and regional average to above the national average and on par with the regional average.
- Won a $105,000 grant from the DentaQuest Foundation to continue and expand Florida's Dental Home Initiative, which utilizes a dental hygienist as coordinator.
- Facilitated the expansion of Gator Smiles training for general dentists to learn about treating children, and for physicians and pediatricians to perform dental exams and fluoride varnish as part of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) exams.
- Increased the number of Head Start grantees meeting the 10 percent disabilities requirement.
- Worked with state and community colleges to develop articulation agreements with state universities and collaborated to increase the number of colleges providing online and off-hours degree programs for Head Start staff.
- Assisted in developing core competencies for professional development, including those for therapeutic practitioners working with children with disabilities.
- Improved collaboration at the local level for grantees' access to blood lead screening tests and results.
- Assisted in promoting the Healthy Homes Project for asthma prevention and smoking cessation in Head Start.
- Facilitated the participation of two Early Head Start (EHS) grantees in the Early Childhood Hearing Outreach (ECHO) Project, and brought ECHO training to other EHS grantees needing assistance with otoacoustic emissions devices.
- Led the Florida Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workgroup in assessing obesity prevention programs, services, and resources, and produced a map of programs and resources.
- Facilitated Safe Families, Safe Homes training for domestic violence identification and prevention.
- Increased grantees' awareness of homelessness and exceeded the average regional percentage of homeless families served in Head Start by serving on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act Committee and assisting with collaborations with McKinney-Vento homeless liaisons.