Early Head Start/Head Start
UCAN’s Early Head Start/Head Start Programs provide a continuum of comprehensive, no-cost services to improve the lives of children age 0-5 and their families in Douglas County. These programs also provide services to eligible pregnant mothers. Most children enrolled in these programs qualify because their families live in poverty, but children can also qualify if they have disabilities or are in foster care. Key services provided by Head Start/Early Head Start include early education, health, nutrition, family strengthening and information and referral. These services are described in more detail below.
Early Education/Quality Child Care
Early Head Start/Head Start prepares children for school and life by improving children's skills. Centers have highly qualified early childhood teachers, support staff and parent volunteers who work together to provide children with rich learning activities. Our nurturing classrooms are filled with age-appropriate activities and learning materials. Teachers work closely with parents to set goals for each child and develop each child’s learning, mental, emotional, social, literacy and physical skills. While children attend classes, their parents receive no-cost child care, and have the opportunity to work or further their education.
Children learn best when they are healthy and free of pain. Every child enrolled in Early Head Start/Head Start is screened for health and developmental issues, and visits with a health and dental professional at the beginning of the school year. We refer any child with an identified developmental issue to the local Education School District to receive additional support services. We ensure parents have a medical and dental “home” for their families. We also make referrals to mental health counselors. We work closely with families to overcome barriers to getting to their doctor and dentist appointments, providing transportation when needed. We have a mental health professional available on-site to address the behavioral needs of children.
Many families and children we serve are hungry and malnourished. We know that hunger leads to poor school performance, poor health, and lifelong chronic illness. So we provide healthy snacks and lunches for all of our children. We also provide education about healthy eating to parents. When needed, we refer families to their local pantries and kitchens so they can obtain additional food.
Children do best when their families have the support they need to thrive. Our program has family support staff who work with families. Meetings are conveniently held at families’ homes. Our staff helps parents identify goals by focusing on their strengths and listening carefully to their desires. We connect parents to resources that will best meet their needs. We offer transportation to help families get to community resources. We even try to make arrangements to obtain important items for families, like beds and appliances. We encourage parents to volunteer in their children’s classrooms, and support their child’s learning at home. Teachers meet with parents a few times each year. We also offer regular events where parents learn about everything from safety to child development, and where they have the opportunity to enjoy family fun activities with other families.
Head Start provides quality transportation service to children who live more than one mile from a classroom. Safety and school access is of primary importance to us. While traveling to and from school, children continue learning from staff on the buses. Our staff sing songs and engage children in activities that add to what they have learned in school. We teach parents and children about pedestrian and school bus safety. We also transport families to field trips, events, and appointments.