Evaluation of Local Head Start/Early Head Start Programs

Primary Investigator: JoAnn Robinson

Project Manager: Ciara Collins

Graduate Research Associate: Nicole Melita

Sponsored by EASTCONN and spearheaded by CARHD Faculty Research Associate Dr. JoAnn Robinson and Graduate Research Associates Ciara Collins, M.A. and Nicole Melita from the HDFS department, this project involves technical assistance and evaluation of program processes through collaboration with managers and staff to ultimately improve family outcomes. EASTCONN is a public, non-profit, regional educational service center that provides educational and related services to learners of all ages in northeastern Connecticut. EASTCONN’s mission is to “initiate, support, and facilitate partnerships, collaborations, and regional solutions that are responsive to the needs of all learners through exemplary programs, products, and services.” Early Head Start (for children ages 0-3) and Head Start (for children ages 3-5) are two of the programs EASTCONN administers in partnership with public school districts in the northeast region. The goals of Head Start programs nationally, and regionally, are to:

  • Support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5
  • Promote school readiness in young children from low-income families
  • Encourage and educate parents as their child’s first and most important teacher
  • Engage whole families to increase positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community

EASTCONN achieves these goals through both home-based and center-based programming for both Early Head Start and Head Start children and families. EASTCONN and UConn jointly planned a data gathering and family feedback system from staff and parents that is rooted in a family functioning assessment framework. Staff and parents jointly identify goals that promote family well-being that are aligned with domains of family functioning. Families provide feedback about their own experience of goals, progress, and other services provided by staff. Reports generated from these methods inform managers’ decision making about program improvement, staff training, and areas of program strength. UConn’s data analyses and reports present feedback about the following areas:

  • Family needs and progress, including assessing family progress on multiple family functioning domains throughout and across years and aggregating family goals identified and achieved across sites
  • Thematically coding qualitative family feedback about experiences with staff and the program
  • Identifying areas of need in the region
  • Quality of services administered, including:
    • Summarizing staff reports of curricula utilized with families
    • Evaluating implementation of program goals and curriculum, analyzing and making programmatic recommendations to improve outcomes in areas identified for growth
  • Helping reduce duplication of documentation and increase collection of relevant information
Poster Presentations:

Yoo, Y. S., Huff, S., Robinson, J., McClure, K., Aschenbrenner, E., McQuade, D., & Freeman, R. (2011, July). Family Goal Setting Within a Family Functioning Framework: An Approach Friendly to Families and Family Advocates. Poster presented at the National Research Conference on Child and Family Programs and Policy, Bridgewater, MA.

Huff, S., Bradley, A., Yoo, Y. S., Saxena, M., Robinson, J., McClure, K., McQuade, D. (2012, April). Continuous Feedback of Goal Attainment with Poor Families. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (CTAMFT), Mystic, CT.

Bryce, K., Robinson, J., Spada, H., McQuade, D., & Gozemba, D. (2013, December). Addressing Family Engagement Frameworks through Assessment of Family Needs and Goal Attainment. Poster presented at the annual meeting of Zero to Three, San Antonio, TX.