Early Childhood Programs:

Local Perspectives on Barriers to Providing Head Start Services

HEHS-95-8: Published: Dec 21, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Head Start Program, focusing on: (1) the barriers to providing quality Head Start services; (2) the techniques that Head Start staff can use to overcome these barriers; and (3) how local Head Start programs use quality improvement funds to enhance and strengthen service quality.

GAO found that: (1) Head Start program directors have difficulties in providing quality services to children and families due to insufficient qualified staff, limited availability of community health care providers, the providers' unwillingness to donate services, and difficulties in getting suitable facilities at reasonable costs; (2) Head Start programs do not have sufficient qualified staff that can provide a variety of services; (3) the areas needing additional qualified staff are social services, mental health, and parent involvement; (4) low salaries hamper local Head Start programs' ability to recruit and hire qualified staff; (5) Head Start teachers typically earn less than teachers with similar positions within the community; (6) program directors have difficulty in finding sufficient space for their programs because of the lack of suitable space within the community, licensing requirements, and high renovation costs; (7) Head Start program directors have tried a variety of techniques to help overcome or eliminate these barriers; (8) program directors usually work closely with community medical facilities to ensure that children receive health services and negotiate with local public schools for unused space; and (9) during school year 1992 through 1993, local Head Start programs used quality improvement funds to increase staff salaries and benefits and to recruit qualified staff.

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