The New Jersey Head Start State Collaboration Office (NJHSSCO) is located in the New Jersey Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Education (DECE). The New Jersey State Board of Education's (SBOE) vision states that students will be exceptionally prepared to the global economy and socially ready to contribute to local, national, and international communities. Their mission is to provide leadership to achieve excellence in New Jersey public education. SBOE works to engage legislators, school administrators, teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders in formulating policies that enhance education, empower families, and broaden opportunities for students.
The focus of the DECE is to enhance social, emotional, physical, and academic development of New Jersey children—preschool through third grade—by providing leadership, resources, and professional development in support of high-quality early childhood programs within a comprehensive, collaborative program.
NJHSSCO's purpose is to promote partnerships between Head Start agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector to help ensure that children and their families from low-income households have access to high-quality education services. They provide leadership to empower families and broaden collaboration opportunities at the state and local levels.
Major partnerships include:
- Head Start programs
- Local education agencies (LEAs)
- State Homeless coordinator
- New Jersey Oral Health Coalition Committee
- Community colleges
- Department of Health
- Department of Children and Families
- Division of Families and Children Prevention
- Office of Family Support
- Department of Education
The New Jersey State Advisory Council is called the New Jersey Council for Young Children (NJCYC). In 2008, the Governor moved the NJHSCCO from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Education.
The major goals of NJHSSCO include:
- Creating a strong partnership and collaboration with state and regional stakeholders, including Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Regional Offices.
- Creating strong partnerships and encouraging coordination and collaboration with LEAs and Head Start programs.
- Improving Head Start coordination with state and local school entities to foster seamless transitions and continuity of services that will positively impact the school readiness and long-term success of Head Start children.
- Improving the current system of infant and early childhood mental health services delivery and increasing capacity of service providers.
- Ensuring the Head Start Program Performance Standards are included in NJ's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to eliminate duplicative and burdensome requirements.
- Helping grantees access professional development opportunities to meet the Head Start degree requirements and coursework that lead to infant/toddler or early child education associate (AA), bachelors, and advance degrees.
- Ensuring higher education is accessible to Head Start and Early Head Start staff.
In addition to the contributions listed above, NJHSSCO has accomplished the following:
- Authored the New Jersey Pediatric Oral Health Plan to raise the awareness of the importance of oral health care for children under 5, and especially for children under 3 and pregnant women.
- Established and maintained statewide interagency mental health leadership team, NJ FEELS.
- Increased infant and toddler AA degrees course offerings at local community colleges.
- Ensured Head Start representation on the State Advisory Council.
- Attended and continue to attend quarterly meetings with state departments and Regional Office staff to discuss collaboration barriers.
- Incorporated the Head Start Program Performance Standards into the state QRIS, NJ Grow Kids, to avoid regulation conflicts.
- Supported Head Start programs participating in the NJ Workforce Registry.
- Worked closely with the NJ Head Start Association and the former Governor's Office to change the pre-K funding formula and successfully changed the funding formula to per pupil.
- Increased the number of dental providers working with NJ Head Start programs. The state Medicaid Office is also assisting in this effort.