The Hawaii Head Start State Collaboration Office (HIHSSCO) is located within the Hawaii Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL), Office of the Governor. The primary purpose of the EOEL is to coordinate efforts within the state to help ensure a solid foundation for Hawaii's young children, prenatal to age 5, by working with partners, families, and communities, and by aligning policies and programs in relation to health, safety, and school readiness and success.
The Early Learning Advisory Board (ELAB), formerly known as the Early Learning Council (ELC), is the State Advisory Council (SAC). The HIHSSCO has been an active member since 2008, when the ELC was first established in statute. The HIHSSCO was instrumental in developing the original application to access American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding in 2010. In 2012, the EOEL was established in statute, and the ELC became the ELAB to the Executive Office.
Major partnerships include:
- EOEL Action Strategy, which involves the convening of partners representing state agencies and nonprofits to identify outcomes and key strategies to support families within the system and their role in supporting their children's healthy growth and development and preparation for school.
- Through its former role as part of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Care Program Office, the HIHSSCO helped to provide information and establish connections on behalf of the Head Start and Early Head Start grantees with child care licensing, tuition subsidies programs, and the Homeless Programs Office.
- Through its active participation on the SAC, the HIHSSCO works with representatives from the Departments of Health (DOH), Education (DOE), Human Services (DHS), the University system, private early childhood settings, pediatricians, and parent organizations to develop policy recommendations and legislative action on behalf of young children, prenatal to age 8, and their families.
- Strong relationships with Part B and Part C agencies have been developed through participation on the state teams for Sequenced Transition to Education in the Public Schools (STEPS) and the Expanding Opportunities for Inter-agency Inclusion.
- DHS Child Care Advisory, DOH Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems, and the DOH Newborn Hearing Screening Program enable the HIHSSCO to inform and connect entities with Hawaii Head Start that often results in expanded or enhanced Head Start and Early Head Start program services.
The major goals of the HIHSSCO include:
- Creating a cohesive and comprehensive system of professional development support for early childhood providers in all communities.
- Increasing collaboration between the LEA and Head Start agencies that will result in successful pre-K to Kindergarten transitions for children and families.
- Working to ensure that high-quality early learning programs are available, affordable, and accessible for all children, birth to kindergarten, and address children's diverse abilities and needs.
- Increasing the availability and access to resources to improve oral, physical, and mental health outcomes for children.
- Developing a system of family support services that results in family strengthening and child safety and welfare.
In addition to the contributions listed above, the HIHSSCO has accomplished the following:
- Developed state-level inter-agency agreements between the Hawaii Head Start and the DOH Early Intervention program and the DOH Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, as well as with DOE's special education section. Currently working on interagency agreements with the DOE Homeless Concerns Office and with the DHS Child Welfare Services.
- Created a road map and planning framework for a comprehensive system for children (prenatal to age 8) through leadership on the ELC which served as a foundation for the Executive Office on Early Learning’s Action Strategy framework.
- Encouraged and facilitated the participation of Early Head Start and Head Start staff on advisory groups, both at the state and local levels.
- Created and distributed an annual Head Start fact sheet that focuses on a specific topic each year and is distributed to key stakeholders as an informational and promotional tool.
- Convened partnership meetings and summits that have resulted in inter-agency agreements or planning efforts to support state initiatives.
- Strengthened the Head Start Association of Hawaii/Outer Pacific infrastructure through assistance in the development of by-laws, fiscal policies, a strategic plan, and the recruitment of community partners as “Friends of Head Start.”
- "Family Partnership Guidelines for Early Childhood Settings" were created through the Action Strategy work.