The cornerstone of Head Start is the emphasis placed on Parent Engagement. Minnesota Head Start parents are busy, hard working, and involved parents.
Head Start parents work with professional Head Start advocates to break the cycle of poverty. Head Start partners with its parents to develop and follow through on and Individual Family Partnership Agreement that helps parents identify family strengths, goals and areas in which assistance is needed. By addressing their individual strengths and needs, parents have a better awareness of how to continue along their path towards self-sufficiency.
Multiple Opportunities to Build Parenting Skills
Head Start programs, at all times, recognize the inherent competence of parents and seek to help them further develop their capacity to parent their children and extend classroom learning into the home. Parents are encouraged to take responsibility for their child’s education and participate actively in the program by volunteering in the child’s classroom, accompanying their child on field trips, attending parent/child and family activities and events, serving on the Head Start Parent Policy Council, serving on Head Start parent committees, and always striving towards their own educational goals.
Early childhood experts know that it is supremely difficult for young children to learn how to function socially and emotionally in a stable, structured, consistent environment when they don’t, in fact, live in a stable, structured, and consistent environment. Children learn best when they feel safe, secure, and supported. Likewise, it is supremely difficult for a parent to focus on learning parenting skills and how to provide their child with the nurturing and support he or she needs to succeed in school, when their own life is unstable.
Head Start Policy Council-Parents as Decision-Makers
In compliance with Federal Head Start Program Performance Standards, all Head Start grantees have a Policy Council comprised of a majority of currently enrolled parents. These parents help govern the individual Head Start program. Every Head Start program’s Policy Council reviews and approves or disapproves of:
- All funding applications,
- Procedures for shared decision making,
- Program planning and goals and objectives,
- Criteria for enrollment priorities,
- Annual self assessment,
- Personnel policies, and
- Recruitment of staff, in some scenarios the hiring and termination of staff
Numerous scientifically based research studies show that father-child interaction promotes healthy development, including physical well-being, perceptual abilities, and ability to relate to others. Children whose fathers who were involved in their education were more likely to get better grades, enjoy school, and participate in after-school sports, and were less likely to repeat a grade (National Center for Education Statistics, 1997).
In Minnesota, many Head Start agencies have father involvement programs that include regularly scheduled activities to involve fathers, male guardians, uncles, brothers, and other male role models in the Head Start child’s life.
Extending Classroom Learning Into the Home
Head Start programs are legislatively mandated to support parents as the primary educators of their child. MN Head Start programs have developed unique and creative ways to strengthen parent/child bonds and provide parents with the tools and resources they need to understand early childhood development principles and extend classroom learning into the home. True stories of Head Start parents reflect the value and importance of involving parents in the program as primary educators of their child.