Head Start began in 1965 with the aim to provide children from low income families with skills to be ready for and to succeed in kindergarten and in life. It now serves nearly 1 million children from birth to age 5 years with comprehensive early learning services in classrooms, home-based programs and family child care partners. Pediatricians should promote Head Start in patient visits and through advocacy efforts at local, state and federal levels.
The benefits of Head Start are proven. High quality early childhood education programs like these have lasting, long term effects including greater school success, higher graduation rates, lower juvenile crime, decreased need for special education services, and lower adolescent pregnancy rates. As compared to children with lower quality child care, children in these programs show better math and language skills, improved interpersonal relationships, better cognition and social skills, and better behavior self-regulation. High quality care also yields greater lifetime earnings, decreased reliance on social services, and better health outcomes.
How can you promote high quality early childhood education for your patients?
- Ask families what child care arrangements they have for children that live in their home at each visit.
- Educate families on the benefits of high quality early childhood education programs like Head Start and Early Head Start.
- Be familiar with the characteristics of quality programs and be able to advise families on what to look for on visits.
- Be familiar with the Head Start sites in your area that serve your patients
- Promote the medical home by partnering with early education professionals to help them understand the needs of patients enrolled in these programs
- Read and comment on the first holistic revision of Head Start Program Performance Standards. Deadline is September 17, 2015 at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ACF-2015-0008-0124 Parts pertinent to pediatricians include:
- Subpart A Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance, Section 1302.12 Determining, Verifying and documenting Eligibility pp. 35528-35530
- Subpart D Health Program Services pp.35537-35539
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. Quality Early Education and Child Care From Birth to Kindergarten Pediatrics 2005; 115 pp. 187 -191
Keadrea Wilson, MD