Giving Families a Head StartMay 15th, 1994 | By pboyer | Category: 6-1: Media and Information, Tribal College News
A model program at a North Dakota tribal college places children in Head Start while giving their parents a second chance.
The Comprehensive Child Development Center at Little Hoop Community College offers child care and health screening for infants, toddlers and young children.
Unlike most child development programs, however, it also offers a wide range of services to parents, including parenting classes, counseling services and career training.
The Little Hoop Community College program is a federally-funded demonstration project under the Head Start Bureau working to meet the needs of children by supporting whole families. It is one of 34 such centers around the country, although it is the only one serving Indian families, according to Project Director Beverly Graywater.
Now in its fourth year, the program works with 45 Indian families living below the poverty line, helping them raise their children and gain self-sufficiency, says Graywater.
When the demonstration project was started, only four adult participants from the original group of 66 were employed, reports Graywater. Today, 39 have jobs. Parents were encouraged to take classes at the college, and many completed GED training or vocational education programs. About ten went on to complete an associate’s degree.
“We’ve seen a lot of miracles,” she says.
The Comprehensive Child Development Center also offers parenting classes and health information. Substance abuse and mental health counseling is also provided.
Five case managers, each working with five to ten families, meet twice a month with parents to help them set goals and offer support.
Families are selected at random. Although they agree to remain in the program for five years, participation is voluntary and some have been replaced.
As a demonstration project, the Little Hoop Community College program must adhere to strict federal guidelines and track the progress of participants. “It’s unreal the data we have to collect,” says Graywater.
Parents are interviewed every three to four months by a professional ethnographer about their progress and feelings about the program which, for the Little Hoop site, has been a positive experience. Graywater says the interviews have confirmed the value of the program.
Although some centers have struggled, there is strong evidence of success among the 34 sites nationwide. According to an interim report to Congress, data shows that participating parents have higher levels of employment, use less alcohol and spend more time with their children. In turn, the children score higher on developmental tests and are more likely to receive preventive health care.
Originally envisioned as a five-year project, Graywater says funding may be extended for as much as several more years.