Wednesday, March 16, 2016
A strategy to increase the enrollment of newly arrived refugees’ children in Early Head Start and Head Start
The current research on the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) leaves little doubt that such programs have both short- and long-term advantages for children. Quality ECEC can have substantial positive impacts on young children’s socioemotional, cognitive, and language development, with long-term effects on educational achievement, occupational success, and health. These advantages are particularly critical for children with refugee parents, who arrive in the United States with few resources and often with limited English proficiency and/or low educational attainment.
The mixed-methods research project described in a new report, Providing a Head Start: Improving Access to Early Childhood Education for Refugees, explores collaboration between Head Start and refugee resettlement services as a strategy to increase the enrollment of newly arrived refugees’ children in Early Head Start and Head Start (EHS/HS) programs.
The authors conducted quantitative and qualitative research in two sites where refugee resettlement and Head Start programs work together: Syracuse in Onondaga County, NY, and Phoenix in Maricopa County, AZ. Based on Office of Head Start (OHS) county-level data, refugee enrollment in EHS/HS increased by 500 percent in Onondaga County and by 200 percent in Maricopa County over a six-year period (2008–13).
Refugee EHS/HS enrollment increased more than would be expected based on refugee arrivals, which declined in both counties between 2009 and 2013. Total Head Start–funded enrollment remained relatively stable in both counties over the six years studied. The authors attribute the relatively rapid rise in the EHS/HS enrollment of refugees’ children in Syracuse and Phoenix to strong and systemic collaborations between Head Start and refugee resettlement agencies in both locations.