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Head Start Programs. What It Is?

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The mission of this organization is to provide a future for children who are overlooked and underprivileged. Every child deserves a chance at success, and Head Start makes this possible. Head Start provides a learning place that supports children’s growth and development. Some areas include language, literacy and social and emotional development. Head Start provides school readiness of children from birth to age five.

Head Start also has core values in the organization. These core values are quality, inclusion, empowerment, collaboration, learning, advocacy, wellness, nurture, diversity, and continuity (“Head Start Core Values”, 2017). Quality is a core value because Head Start strives to provide the highest level of service to these children and family members. A well-qualified organization is important. Time, energy, and money are at stake so the importance of a qualified organization and mission is key. The core value of inclusion is important because the Head Start community is diverse and filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds, languages, socioeconomic status’, and ethnicities. Head Start works together to build an inclusive environment so children feel welcomed in order to achieve maximum success. Empowerment of the families happens when a governance program is a responsibility shared between families, governing bodies, and staff. Ideas and opinions for these families are heard and valued.

Collaboration is important because many relationships are built among the children, families, staff members, and the greater community. A network of community agencies partner in serving these families. Head Start creates a neat opportunity for children, parents, and staff to be a part of a culturally sensitive environment. This environment allows these children to feel accepted and included. Learning is so crucial for the children and the program to be successful. Advocacy is important to Head Start because of the issues that come with these family members and their children. Addressing and acknowledging that social and economic factors weigh heavily, and negatively affects their lives. Change happens when everyone is involved and addresses the underlying causes of these unfortunate circumstances. Head Start bridges the gap for those who do not receive the same education and upbringing that other families are privileged with.

Head Start embraces a vision of good health for children, families, and staff. This is to ensure that the basic health needs are met and to encourage practices that prevent future illness or injury. The promotion of positive health behaviors and practices will set these children up for long-term health and prosperity. Along with wellness, Head Start desires to have a nurturing environment. The educational portion is important, but so is the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development in each child. Diversity is important because Head Start values many roots in the community. Head Start and the families strive to work together as a team in support of these differences. Lastly, Head Start strives to create a continuum of care, education, and services to provide stable support for these families and their children during early childhood (“Head Start Core Values”, 2017).

In a study, researchers suggest that programs like Head Start not only benefit the children but also the family members. Head Start programs have helped parents return to the workforce and become more educated. Preschool is important for children in poverty because it allows parents to get on their feet and support their children. This also teaches their children early on the importance of obtaining a good education and a stable job. Researchers collected data from the CAP Family Life Study. In the study, they measured parents’ financial circumstance and psychological well-being, parent’s enrollment and certification in Career Advance, and assistance for the parents. Sabol’s (2015) study found that as a result, “59% of the sample was enrolled in Career Advance at the end of 16 months. Out of the 70 participants who attained at least one certificate, 63% attained one certificate” (p.7). They also examined low-income parents’ education in Career Advance, one of the generation programs. According to Sabol (2015), the results suggest, “two-generation programs that offer education services for parents and children will promote parents’ education attainment” (p. 7). The example of parents’ following through with providing and supporting the family is extremely important for children. This will give young children an opportunity to see how important it is to finish school and maintain stable jobs in the future. Head Start creates this opportunity for not only children’s success but also their parents.

Organizational Analysis

Head Start is managed by a Board of Directors consisting of forty-eight directors. The immediate past Chairman serves as an ex officio member of the Board of Directors. Each member is entitled to one vote on each item. Each Regional Head Start Association chooses four directors. The Board of Directors has many duties and responsibilities. For example, they must attend to any matter which the Board determines is in the best interest of the corporation. The Board is in charge of setting any policies within the organization which includes approving public policy statements and overseeing the action of this policy. Policies pertaining to personnel and financial management are included in this as well. The Board is also in charge of overseeing the organization’s achievements and using the knowledge gained to revise its mission, goals, and objectives. They are in charge of hiring and evaluating the Executive Director. They approve the annual budget and select the independent audit firm (“NHSA Board”, 2018).

Head Start’s Board of Directors acts as fiduciaries to the corporation at all times including complying with the duties of care, loyalty, and obedience. According to Thomas and Lisa Hazen (Ott & Dicke, 2016, p.70-71), these fiduciaries duties are important and should be taken seriously within a non-profit organization. In the textbook, these authors explain in detail these different duties board members should carefully consider.

These fiduciary duties are the duty of care, which basically means board members will be informed and attentive to what is going on in the organization. The duty of loyalty means the board members will remain loyal to corporate law and the trust of the people. They need to remain loyal and honest in following the law, and hold a high standard of ethics because these families, staff members, stakeholders are enabling trust in them and the organization. This also entails refraining from conflict of interest situations. Thirdly, board members are to act in good faith. Lastly, board members are to have obedience with respect to business and nonprofit corporations. Under good faith, directors are to rely on the advice of others, such as staff, legal counsel, and other professionals in making decisions that would be of the best interest of the organization. The board has a duty of care to make sure staff members are doing the right things to support their mission within the organization. They can delegate responsibilities and duties to staff members.

Fundraising activities are a part of Head Start. Parents typically will engage in this process. These activities help generate additional resources to support additional projects the program would not be able to afford using only Head Start grant funds. According to a Head Start source, no Head Start funds are used for fund-raising activities. (“Fund-Raising – Federal Policies”, 2016). No Head Start staff members are engaged in these activities during the period when such staff members are employed. Funds may not be solicited during work hours or using Head Start funded equipment or facilities.

There are some fundraising opportunities for Head Start. Head Start staff members may raise contributions for playground equipment during weekends when the Head Start program is not taking place, as long as it is voluntary. Parents are allowed to hold a bake sale at a Head Start facility to possibly raise funds for a field trip. Head Start parents may also host a breakfast for children’s supplies or advertise a food drive. Any additional funds generated from fundraising must be treated as program income. The expenditure of program income funds will be subject to the same requirements as the expenditure of any other Head Start grant funds. Programs are not allowed to use program income for purposes that would not normally be charged to their ongoing Head Start grant. For example, in the past, Head Start programs have used program income for purchasing books, supplies, a field trip expense, or covering the cost of an event. Fundraising activities are only related to generating revenue for the benefit of the program’s Head Start children and families. Head Start funds cannot be used for any purposes of lobbying (“Fund-Raising – Federal Policies”, 2016).

From my personal connection with Head Start, the organization had a pretty good system of utilizing volunteers consistently. As a part of one of my sociology courses while at Texas A&M University, I spent an entire semester volunteering at a school with the Head Start program. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these children and watching them grow with such supportive teachers and volunteers. The Head Start program in College Station has a consistent system regarding the use of volunteers. The sociology program sends volunteers to many different Head Start schools in the area. Like in the textbook, the Head Start program in College Station utilizes the community; some college students. Head Start also has a great system of managing the volunteers. The schools work with the principals, teachers, and professors at the universities. There were also extremely detailed descriptions of what to expect, the preferred times of when the volunteers should commit to, and what was hoped to be accomplished in the time frame.

The recommendation I would make for improvements is to have more volunteers other than college students. While I was a volunteer at the Head Start location in College Station, I volunteered with other college students. College students are great for volunteer purposes, but sometimes can be pretty unreliable. Head Start should have backup volunteers throughout the community if all else fails. Anyone is allowed to volunteer with Head Start as long as they fill out an application form, sign an agreement, and pass a background check. As also mentioned in Understanding Nonprofits Organizations on page 302, the authors discuss heavily on motives for volunteering. Personally, as a Head Start volunteer, I completely loved every minute of it. I have a desire to serve and take care of children. However, I also volunteered because it was a requirement for one of my classes. This would be considered an underlying motive. The organization should take a look at their volunteers and look into motives. Not that my motive was wrong, it was a need. It is important for an organization to have committed volunteers who want to be there. Head Start should strive to be an organization with loyal and dedicated volunteers who desire to make a difference in their community, for the purpose of seeing the next generation have successful people.

Financial Analysis

The tax status of this nonprofit is a 501 (c) (3) because they are an educational and charitable organization. Their foundation description is the “organization that normally receives no more than one-third of its support from gross investment income and unrelated business income and at the same time more than one-third of its support from contributions, fees, and gross receipts related to exempt purposes. 509(a)(2). (CitizenAudit.org LLC). The major programs and services are for low-income families and children. This is beneficial towards the organization because it shows that their main mission is not to collect revenue and have a mission focus. Their mission is on the families and children. One aspect that could be improved is for more communications and tools after the children leave the Head Start program. Once these children get fully integrated with other children in schools, how is the success of the program truly measured? Head Start should look into possibly continuing the Head Start program from birth all the way until high school graduation. They could also look at having their mission be focused on getting these children prepared for college.

The Office of Head Start is responsible for overseeing the overall operation of the program in accordance with the Head Start Act. The Office of Head Start is also in charge of establishing program standards and regulations that govern the program. The Head Start Act is passed by Congress and signed by the President. The President authorizes the continued operation of the Head Start program for a certain number of years and sets ceilings for budget appropriations during the period. Each year, Congress and the President agree on the annual budget through an appropriation bill. Head Start community programs are funded directly from the federal government, not the states. There are two branches of federal Head Start staff in Washington, DC and across 10 regions throughout the country. Staff in the regional areas monitor closely the operations of local programs and provides funding. Funding is provided according to funding formulas established by Congress in the Head Start Act and the budget also sets limits by the annual Head Start appropriation. Head Start owes its existence to a public law passed by Congress and signed by the President. The Act explains in detail, the intent of Congress in terms of the purpose of the program, types of services, population to be served, reporting and evaluating requirements, and administrative requirement’s (“Head Start 101”, 2018).

Another way this nonprofit organization stays on top of their finances is by utilizing a fiscal checklist. This includes many different questions and links to different policies all available online. This is helpful not only to staff members but also to their board members. A quick reference like this online checklist is efficient and helpful. In the checklist, it asks questions about the timeline of fiscal management activities, how the policies inform fiscal management efforts, how the budgeting process relates to the program, and if the audits are clean and maximized. Overall, this checklist has an important purpose to help directors, managers, and these board members identify the Head Start regulations. The checklist also provides a way to list actions required to better address each responsibility.

Performance Management

Head Start engages in a strategic planning process. There are many different people involved within this organization. Head Start includes the following: school districts, municipalities, parents, and the federal government. Through this strategic planning process, the organization constantly is making decisions about what the future holds and how the organization will get there. Head Start utilizes the process known as a SWOT analysis- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is important to see an organization’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives not only on a short-term basis, but also in the long run. Head Start has a program called The Head Start Program Performance Standards, which requires programs to develop long-range program goals and short-term program objectives. These goals address one of the following: the need to respond to a program-wide issue or the need to make significant changes in targeted service areas. This program also requires the continued participation of parents in the process.

Overall, Head Start is a very fiscally sound and responsible organization. Their mission is aligned well with the organization. They have responsible principles within their guidelines. Head Start also has a good system because there is not just one central organization. There are offices in Washington D.C. and all over the United States. The program is effective because the system these young children go through is meant to be successful long-term. It also allows the entire family to build relationships and have opportunities to have a better life. Head Start does a great job of providing short-term needs for long-term results.

In this study called “Long-Term Follow-Up of a Preschool Experiment” discussed how preschool programs, like Head Start, have many positive outcomes post preschool. All of which included the intellectual performance in school, the commitment to going to school, and graduating high school, and a reduction of incarceration. The researchers identified 123 African American children living in poverty and could possibly be at high risk of school failure. In the study, Schweinhart (2013) used “randomizing procedures to assign them to a program group and a no-program group operated a high-quality preschool program…for ages 3-4” (p. 391). The researchers randomly assigned one group to the program condition and the other to the no-program. They also exchanged members in each cohort to limit the number of kids whose mothers were working.

The teachers conducted 2.5 hours classes on weekdays and 1.5-hour home visits. The program group performed better than the no-program group on intellectual and languages tests, school achievement, and literacy exams. Not only this, but the program group had better attitudes about school and graduated high school at a larger percentage. This study found a long-term effect on schooling, economic performance, and crime. The researchers concluded, “model preschool programs and some local and state programs have the program ingredients needed to be highly effective…” (Schweinhart, 2013 p. 405). Preschool education is such an important time for growth and development. Early education programs like Head Start provide families to come together who value education and hope for a better future. Children are able to get a head start on the education that will prepare them for the upcoming grades, and ultimately, the real world. With my experience, many of these children enrolled in Head Start come from broken and disadvantaged home conditions. When these children are in these type of situations, children’s behaviors are disrupted.

I have seen Head Start improve children’s behaviors and help establish a path for long-term success. Without programs like Head Start, these children could fall so short on their education that could affect the rest of their lives. Head Start walks alongside these families to help keep everyone accountable and on track. This provides these children a shot at a bright future. These children might not be born with all the resources that more fortunate children do, but with continued love, support, and encouragement from organizations like Head Start, these children have the opportunity to grow into mature contributors of society.

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