Head Start / Early Head Start
West Central’s Head Start program enriches lives by providing high-quality early care, education and health services for children, as well as supportive services for parents while families work toward self-sufficiency.
Head Start is a comprehensive program for low-income families and their children. West Central Head Start serves over 500 children and families (0 to 5 years of age) in a nine-county area; Bates, Benton, Cass, Cedar, Henry, Hickory, Morgan, St. Clair, and Vernon. There are different programs available to accommodate many different needs. There is never a fee for Head Start/Early Head Start services. Click this link to see the benefits Head Start provides.
Teachers work with children from the time they enroll, regardless of age, to ensure they are ready when the time comes to enroll in Kindergarten. Developmental screenings and health screenings are completed yearly to identify any possible barriers; on-going assessments are completed throughout the year to validate that progress is being made; and school readiness goals are identified with the parents’ help to be certain the children are on target for their age. Children transitioning to kindergarten the following year have many activities to help prepare them for the transition to include but not limited to learning how to open a milk carton, carrying a tray of food, and meeting the kindergarten teachers and other staff at the school. Head Start in some locations assist with local Kindergarten Round-Up and all Head Start teachers have a list of what the local school district wants the children to know that they incorporate into their lesson plans weekly.
All enrolled children receive health and dental screenings that are provided by either the Head Start staff or the children’s health provider. Child nutrition services also assist families in meeting each child’s nutritional needs and in establishing good eating habits. All meals served at West Central Head Start centers meet or exceed Missouri Eat Smart guidelines.
Eligibility into the program is based on income and specific criteria that were developed within the program. Families are given points for many things including but not limited to income, parents in the home, disability, age, receiving public assistance, and siblings in the program. This criterion is assessed annually and approved by the Policy Council. The WCMCAA computer system generates a list of the eligible children ranked in the order of need, highest point first. The children are accepted into the program when a slot becomes available and he/she is first on the list.
Children in the program are provided comprehensive health, dental, and developmental services. Families are assisted if they need resources for physicals, immunizations and/or dental services. The WCMCAA staff provides hearing, vision, and blood pressure assessments for each child within forty-five (45) days of the child’s enrollment. Should a child fail a screening a referral is made to the appropriate agency. Children are also screened by staff for development, speech and social/emotional using the Denver II/DASE and the ASQ-SE respectively within the 45-day window as well. If the screening shows concerns the child, with the parents’ permission, is referred to either First Steps (0-3) or public school (3-5) for further evaluation. The staff also completes an on-going assessment of the children throughout the year using the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment and portfolios.
Head Start requires the parents to be active partners with the program. Every family receives a copy of the Family Partnership Agreement which outlines their responsibilities and how we will be working together. Families are also encouraged to create family goals to work on throughout the year. The Family Advocate helps the families with the action steps and locating resources to assist with the goal. Every center has a Family Enrichment Event (FEE) once a month that provides education, socialization opportunities, and a nutritious snack. This activity is organized by the center committees made up of parents/guardians of the children with guidance from the center staff as needed. There is also the opportunity to be a delegate to the WCMCAA Policy Council. The Policy Council assists in guiding and making decisions about how Head Start/Early Start operate.
Linda Schreck, Early Childhood Education Director, Ext. 1600
Results of Most Recent Office of Head Start Federal Review: