Head Start Philosophy The overarching principle of our Head Start program is that families, children and staff are respected. There will be an immediate and complete acceptance of families as full partners in attaining the goals that the family sets for itself and its children. We will practice acceptance of value systems, with no demands that a family changes those systems to satisfy us. We will be non-judgmental in our attitudes.
We also believe based on much relevant research, that there are many ways to enhance a child’s ability to learn. We believe that each child learns in a unique way, and being sensitive to that child’s needs, we will design a curriculum for that child’s enrichment across all domains of learning. We will follow the child’s and family’s lead, and involve the parent as the primary teacher of the child. We will advocate for the child in our center based classrooms, and we will advocate for the family in the home.
Simply put, our program’s philosophy is to win the children’s and family’s hearts and to be persistent in our quest for excellence. This echoes our 4C mission statement:
“We are committed to building stronger Central Texas communities,
One child and family at a time.”
The model for our service delivery has two major focus areas, each unique: Head Start and Early Head Start. We also believe that for a continuum of care, both programs should be addressed under a unified framework that encourages dialogue and partnership planning. In order to accomplish these goals, we will:
Engage the family to establish a trust relationship. Win the family’s heart.
Observe the parent and child interaction patterns. Be responsive caregivers.
Fit the curriculum to the child, not the child to the curriculum. Win the child’s heart.
Partner with the family to identify family strengths and stressors.
Partner with the family to identify priorities for the child and for the family.
Plan with the family to accomplish identified priority outcomes for family and child.
Assess the effectiveness of each individualized plan with evaluations from the family and staff.
Remain committed to our community partnerships and assess our communities’ needs.
Expand 4C’s realm of influence in our communities as advocates for children and families.
Support staff in their professional and personal goals.
Processes Recruitment: All available means will be utilized in communicating within our communities about the Central Texas 4C Head Start program and how to access those services. Postings at our current Head Start Center locations, flyers to our current Head Start families, public schools, health clinics, WIC offices, ECI offices, Bell County Help Centers, and other community partners will be accomplished. Regular press releases to our newspapers, radio, and TV stations will be sent. Languages used will be English and Spanish. We will make special efforts to post information in targeted low-income areas (based on our Community Assessment). Our website, www.centraltexas4c.org will be available. All information will include information about services to children with disabilities.
Application: Applications will be available in two languages in various locations in our cities. There will be assistance available for helping to fill out the application from a person who speaks the same language as the family applying. Complete applications will be forwarded to a central location for data entry into the database system. Classroom lists will be generated in July-August so that staff can begin the process of orientation and enrollment with parents. Applications are also on our website.
Selection: From the lists generated by the computerized data tracking program, Head Start children and families with the highest point totals will be contacted first until a classroom is fully enrolled. The point system will assign points based on the approved Policy Council selection criteria, and will reflect different points for different locations based on the Community Assessment (for example, homeless children will receive 50 additional points in order to assure quickest enrollment).
Enrollment: During enrollment, every effort is made to establish a good relationship with each family in order to build mutual trust. All pertinent paperwork will be done with the parent that is required by the Head Start Program Performance Standards and State licensing. These forms are located in the Enrollment section of the Procedures Manual. Staff will also obtain any relevant releases in writing from the parent, after each item is explained. Parents will be given the Parent Handbook and the Orientation Home Visit will be scheduled at the parents’ convenience.
Transition: As we begin enrolling families and children into our system, we will not complete the enrollment process until the parent is comfortable with the philosophy and procedures. Parents will be encouraged to tour the Head Start center where their child is enrolled and to visit with the teachers and Family & Community Advocate (FCA). We will explain the long-term commitment Head Start will make to the family. Other transitions will occur at several levels and are addressed in the service section of this Service Plan. (See Disabilities, Family Partnerships, etc.)
Orientation: Orientation will serve as part of the family and child's transition into Head Start. Parents will receive a Parent Family Folder, which contains resources, policies and procedures. This will be the opportunity to begin the Family Partnership Process (FPP). This orientation/home visit will help the parent further understand what we will be doing with their child at the center, and it gives the parent an opportunity to share information and expectations with us. Head Start staff is sensitive to the family’s wishes and styles. Staff will also go over the Parent Handbook in more detail so that parents understand our roles and responsibilities in assuring that the programs meet licensing and Head Start requirements.
Volunteering: Parents are welcome at all times and are encouraged to volunteer at the center throughout the year. During orientation, parents will receive a mini-volunteer training. Regular volunteers receive a more in-depth volunteer training using the “Volunteer Training Handbook.” We encourage all Head Start volunteers to get a TB tine test, paid for by the Head Start program and we do background checks on any regular volunteer. We will also use the time the parent is in the center to observe and learn the family’s and child’s styles of learning and interaction.
Program Governance: Head Start parents are given a major role in the governing of our agency’s Head Start program. Since Central Texas 4C is both a delegate and a grantee, the Early Head Start parents will be combined with our Head Start Policy Council. Each classroom will elect a representative and an alternate to attend our Policy Council. The by-laws of the Policy Council reflect that there is a standing Head Start delegate committee to enact any policy decisions that affect only Head Start issues. The President of the Head Start Policy Council is seated on Central Texas 4C’s Board of Directors. Budget and Policy information is presented and explained for those committees, who then report their approval/disapproval to the full Council. Members of the Head Start Policy Council who are interested in personnel issues will be invited to participate in interviewing prospective employees, and will also approve/disapprove personnel reports. Head Start and Early Head Start parents will have a seat on our Education Committee and our Health Advisory Committee and will help with decisions about prevention and early intervention strategies. The agency’s Board of Directors shares the responsibilities of governance by being trained on and understanding the division of duties as set forth in the Head Start Program Performance Standards. There is an impasse procedure in place for problem resolution.
Planning: Head Start and Early Head Start parents will assist in planning through the Head Start Policy Council, center committees, Health Advisory Committee, and the Education Advisory Committee. Parents will take part in surveys to indicate their individual needs, especially in the area of training and center committee program topics.
Strategic planning is accomplished at many levels in the organization. The Head Start Plans are revised every year, with input from parents, staff, and community partners. The parents are invited to comment/criticize/suggest changes that are taken to the Policy Council for vote. Parents are included in individualizing their child's education. Self-Assessment involves parents, community representatives and staff to review the program’s effectiveness each year. There is an annual confidential parent evaluation at the end of the school year so that parents can let administrators know whether the program met their expectations. These tools are then used by management to design or redesign systems to improve overall program performance.
Planning is regular and sustained. There are bi-monthly strategy meetings of administrators, managers, and coordinators to assess and plan needed changes, plan transition of children from Early Head Start to Head Start and other events. There are monthly meetings with managers, coordinators, site directors, and FCAs to address concerns and present findings to administration. Monthly staffings are conducted with Coordinators, FCAs, and Managers to discuss families and children that have a need for extra resources in order to empower the family, this includes those with disabilities.
Community Assessment is an ongoing process that continually searches out new data or information reflecting our communities. Federal, State, County, local, and individual sources are documented. Implications for planning are always an outcome of the Community Assessment and are maintained in that document. Planning with our community partners is continued through the agency’s involvement in many avenues of collaboration, including public schools in the transition of children, community network groups for addressing community problems, faith-based groups, local city and county governments. We maintain formal agreements with over 90 entities in Bell/Coryell Counties.
Planning is constant in the classrooms. As staff interacts with the children and families, they must continually reassess the next step for the growth of that child or family. Individual development plans for each child are carefully monitored by the teaching staff, the parent, agency partners, coordinators, and management team members. Staff training is developed based upon the needs of children and families.
Budgeting is a critical piece of planning. The Executive Director, with input from the Finance Director, Human Resource Director, Head Start Director, Disabilities Coordinator, and Policy Council, with oversight from the Board of Directors, is ultimately responsible for creating realistic budgets to share with all of those partners.
There is also a developing technology plan available for review that looks at a long-range plan for getting all of our people coordinated through Internet access, data sharing, report building, and general communication. That plan will also remain fluid as we gain knowledge, funding becomes available and our communication priorities change.
Communication: There are different levels of communication in the agency, and we observe the fact that courtesy is paramount. We do not have a chain of command, but a chain of courtesy. The first priority in communication is for the administration and management levels to get clear information to and from staff who work with parents and children. This will be done in several settings: strategy meetings of administrative and mid-management staff, pre-service and in-service training each year, so that plans, policies and procedures can be addressed. There are monthly team meetings with directors, FCAs, and mid-management so that face-to-face communication can occur. Each center must conduct a staff meeting monthly, more if deemed necessary. Other means of communicating with staff are memoranda, agency newsletters, and Internet email, if available. In addition, classroom staff has occasional teacher work days that help in communication by giving additional time to network on a center-to-center basis through training, etc.
During recruitment, a variety of posted messages in English and Spanish will be distributed in our three cities. We will also use our community partners (ECI, WIC, Free Clinics, etc.) to get information to prospective clients. We will go door to door if necessary to be fully enrolled. During transition into the Head Start program, we will carefully assess and reassess our effectiveness in establishing that critical first approach to a family. We will listen to that family, and be supportive of the family’s strengths, wants, needs, and wishes to the extent possible while maintaining full compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Face to face meetings will be the first means of communication. Staff communicates with parents on a daily basis. We will introduce some of our written materials, being careful not to overwhelm the family. The Family Handbook, which includes the Parent Guide, gives families an overview of how we conduct the program. Parents will, as part of our orientation packet, receive a “quick list” resource directory that might help the family, as they become part of our HS family. There are monthly nutrition newsletters in English and Spanish, and the Pediatric Dietician consults with families if a nutrition assessment indicates that need.
Staff receives training in the area of communicating with families. Establishing trust with families will be crucial to the child and family’s success, and we can only do that well if we know how to approach, engage, and then support families through our various communication skills. Records are kept and used as communicating tools. For example, home and center visits will be documented so that the parent and the teacher/FCA are clear about outcomes desired.
Record Keeping and Reporting:Record keeping is methodical and important, but only in as much as that information is used to serve children and families and improve the program. Confidentiality is critical and is observed with all documentation. Child records include: health, immunizations, medical home, emergency contact information, ongoing assessment used for planning curricula for that child, tickler files to alert staff and parents to upcoming necessary health plans. Children’s portfolios show their progress.
Records are kept daily on attendance and point-of-service for meal counts. If a child is absent two days in a row, a home visit is made on the third day to assure the safety of the child and family (sooner if deemed necessary). For every absence, there will a coded reason for that absence, so that we can determine if a family needs help in getting their child to the center, or if some other resource is needed. We have set a goal of 90% average daily attendance, but if it should fall below 85% (Head Start minimum), we will analyze the reasons using information generated by our daily attendance register.
Family records will record family information, demographics including race and ethnicity, Family Partnership Agreements as appropriate, goals, services and outcomes. These will be individualized for each family. Primary responsibility for maintaining family records will be the FCA. Some of the factors to be identified include education level, single parent, teen parent, public assistance, whether or not employed, and demographic data.
Center records will include outcomes for children in care, center staff meeting minutes, center parent meeting minutes, licensing and monitoring visit outcomes. Staff records will include all pertinent Human Resource files. (See section on Human Resources System.) Fiscal records are included under the Fiscal Management System. Governance records are kept in two primary locations: the Parent Policy Council notebook and the Board of Directors notebooks (including Finance Committee). Regular reports from Human Resources and the Finance Department are made available to both governing groups for approval/disapproval. The PIR (Program Information Report) is generated each year through the computerized data system and sent to the Federal government for review.
Ongoing Monitoring: There are several monitoring systems. One is the administrative level which monitors overall agency effectiveness. Reports that come to the administration are an indication of how healthy the agency is. For instance, the absence reports generated from our computerized attendance data will indicate if there are problems preventing parents from getting their children to our centers, what other indicators are present that might explain absences, and whether or not staff has followed up as required. Financial reports that come to the administration monthly (or more often if needed) monitor the fiscal health of the agency and also illustrate whether or not the budget processes are based on real numbers. The Board of Directors and the Policy Council also monitor the executive, fiscal, and human resource functions of the agency at their regular meetings. Regular Strategy Team meetings with administrative and mid-management staff cover conditions that need to be recognized for excellence or improvement. Follow-up on previous suggestions is also covered at that time.
The evaluation process for staff is another monitoring system. Central Texas 4C, Inc. uses a unique evaluation system that encourages staff to set goals for personal and professional development, and encourages supervisors to be personally vested in the employees’ success. The disciplinary policies as well as other policies of the agency are clear and are given to each employee at orientation. The Human Resource Director goes through the 4C Policy Handbook with each new employee to make sure that the employee has clear understanding of the agency’s expectations in behavior, work ethic, dress, codes of conduct, conflict of interest and professionalism. Agency policies are approved each year by the Policy Council and the Board of Directors. Evaluations are done at the end of an employee’s introductory period, and at least yearly after satisfactory completion.
A third system of monitoring is our annual self-assessment process, which includes parents, staff, and community professionals. Our process includes analysis of the information gained by the self-assessment teams, using that analysis to design “focused visits” to the centers, empowering staff to learn by doing the focused visit with a supervisor, and designing specific outcomes that the particular staff/classroom/center will adopt as goals. By having the staff do their own monitoring, they can more clearly understand what the outcomes should be, and supervisors then help them obtain whatever tools they need to succeed. It becomes an ongoing assessment, rather than just a once-a-year occurrence.
The Federal Review Team uses the OHS Monitoring Protocol and we train our staff and parents on just what that means. The framework of systems and services helps to explain to our partners how our program operates, what is fundamental, and what is enhanced. As a delegate agency for the regular Head Start program, we are also monitored by the Head Start grantee. The Workforce Commission’s Child Care Services (CCS) program monitors also conduct annual monitoring visits to all our sites. The maintenance staff of Central Texas 4C, Inc. also does a monthly monitoring visit to each facility and reports findings back to administration. Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS) licenses and monitors all of our centers. USDA monitors the food program.
Self Assessment: Besides the formal Self Assessment process mentioned above in monitoring systems, there are many ways we assess how we are doing. Regular reports from the MIP accounting system help us assess where we are financially, and help us in our budgeting. Sharing those reports with the Board’s Finance Committee and the Policy Council gives more analysis to assess how the agency’s fiscal responsibilities are being overseen. Reports from Human Resources allows us to determine if our staff turnover rates are because of inappropriateness on the part of the employee, or if there is something systemic in our agency that works against longevity on the part of staff. Human Resource documentation also plays a large role in assessing the needs of staff, based on their evaluations, development plan, and surveys of training needs. When those needs are assessed accurately, then an individual’s development plan will be tailored to that specific employee’s job description, and ultimately may lead to further clarification of job descriptions themselves.
The view that is taken in the agency regarding self-assessment is that it is child and family centered, and that careful attention to the operation of the program will always suggest ways to improve our services. When we really strive to meet and respect parents and children, we will not only address and correct problems, we will look for ways to strengthen the Head Start program as a total experience for our clients. That means that our self-assessment process must be ongoing, non-defensive, and goal oriented. Setting goals for the agency has long been interwoven into the governance system, and planning with community partners also requires us to gain meaningful feedback from them. We do that in various ways, through committees, asking them to join our formal assessment teams, hearing their concerns when collaboration is not as smooth as we would like, then coming to consensus to develop plans together (see signed agreements as one indication of this effort).
One important aspect of self-assessment occurs when we work one-on-one with families. Teachers and FCAs in particular have a unique opportunity to assess the effectiveness of their efforts as they do home visits. The FPA and follow-up required will show family outcomes. Those outcomes will be analyzed by appropriate staff to review the methods we use in working with families. Since we will be tracking risk indicators on our families, we can determine if all (or just some) of our strategies are having the desired outcomes. If not, we will redesign those strategies. Of course, developmental assessments of children’s progress will also be ongoing and will also be analyzed to assess our effectiveness in helping each child reach full potential.
Human Resources: Human Resource systems in the agency include all aspects of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, orienting, training, evaluating, mentoring and guiding staff to success. All recruiting advertisements are clearly marked with the fact that we are an Equal Employment Opportunity agency. Résumés and applications go first to the Human Resource Director who sorts and files according to credentials and experience. If there are five qualified applicants and one is hired, the other four go into a potential employee pool. Positions are posted internally for staff and parents before they are advertised. The Human Resource Director then has access to all applications and screens those applications for the Head Start Director and Nutrition Director as needed. They then work with HR to set up an interview schedule, and invite parents from the Policy Council to participate in that process. Notes taken during the interview process stay in the HR office and are treated confidentially. Following the interview but before hiring, the HR Director completes reference and criminal record checks. If a current or former Early Head Start or Head Start parent qualifies for a particular job, that parent is given preference in hiring, all other factors being equal. Currently, Central Texas 4C’s job force is 32% former or current parents. Personnel files are kept in the HR office, and the office is locked when the HR Director is not present.
The HR Director is also responsible for communicating with new staff during an intense orientation process. All aspects of human resource functions are covered during that time: agency policies, procedures for payroll, required documentation, sexual harassment training, minimum standards training, Head Start philosophy, safety training, and other information documented in the personnel file. The employee during orientation sets up a professional development plan which is revisited every fall. The Head Start Director then follows up with each employee as he/she makes progress to higher degrees.
The agency’s evaluation process is a human resource system, in that it builds on strengths of employees, empowers them to set goals and achieve, and be partners with the agency in their own development. The disciplinary processes are clear. There are some infractions that lead to immediate termination with the agency: abuse of a child, parent, or staff member and theft of agency property, for example. Most other mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth, and are documented as a notice of concern, with clear indications of expectations. If a notice of concern is not acted upon by the employee, he/she receives a written warning, again with clear expectations of job performance, support for improvement, and timelines addressed. Written warnings also make clear to the employee the consequences of not bringing performance to standards.
The Human Resource Director is an arbitrator when all other methods of solving staff problems fail. It is critical for an organization to have an HR director who does not “take sides,” but listens well and works with all parties to resolve issues. The HR director is also on the front line of keeping the agency informed about legal issues revolving around the workplace, and as such, serves as the Safety Officer of the organization.
One of the human resource systems in place at Central Texas 4C, Inc. is the avenue for rewarding excellence in the workplace. Each year, the Betty Neill Award of Excellence is presented to our top classroom at the annual Board/Council banquet. Another part of recognizing good work is through our evaluation system, which always begins with a section called “Noteworthy Mention,” a section filled out by the supervisor. During that evaluative process, we also give employees a chance to tell us what they have accomplished that we may not know. Setting goals with our employees, committing to helping them achieve those goals, makes partners of us all. We consider that is effective human resource management.
Central Texas 4C also has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) so that staff who experience personal difficulties has at least three sessions with a mental health professional. Those visits are paid for by the agency, but we never know who the participants are since we are billed in units, not by employee names.
Fiscal Management: Fiscal Management policies and procedures are written to encompass all requirements of Federal and local grants administration and are on file in the Finance Director’s office. The policies are reviewed and/or revised annually and submitted for approval to the Finance committee and Board. Care is taken in procurements to make processes fair and accessible to minority and women-owned businesses. Budgets are written as concisely and as close to true costs as possible. Budgets are also approved by the governing bodies of the agency. The personnel policies contain an agency code of conduct. All funding applications are approved by the Board and the Policy Council prior to submission to the funding agent, and members are advised that travel expenses are available.
All aspects of fiscal procedures are tracked on MIP, a computerized system capable of tracking multiple funding sources, payroll, generating financial reports, etc. There are safeguards built into our system for accountability and are outlined in the Financial Policies and Procedures as are our procurement procedures. We pay bills by invoice only, and each program pays for food costs not allowable under USDA (i.e. adult meals). We use “point of service” counts rather than attendance figures to determine the USDA meal costs.
In order for staff to be empowered to purchase the small items they need, we use a requisition system which requires supervisory approval and includes a dollar limit per month for classroom use.
The agency carries theft bond, employment practices and D&O insurance, as well as substantial liability and comprehensive policies.
PART 1301 - HEAD START GRANTS ADMINISTRATION 1301.31 - Personnel policies.
(a) Written Policies
Central Texas 4C has established and implemented written personnel policies for all staff. These policies have been approved by the Governing Board and reviewed by Policy Council. Copies are made available to all Head Start staff. Policies include:
(1) Job Descriptions for each staff position that addresses roles and responsibilities and relevant qualifications. Salary range and employee benefits are included in each employee’s orientation packet. Each employee receives a copy of his/her description.
(2) The Head Start program will follow the agency’s personnel policies regarding the procedures for recruitment, selection and termination.
(3) Standards of conduct and conflict of interest policies are in the 4C Policy Manual.
(4) A written description of ways that staff can access opportunities for training, development, and advancement is in the Procedures Manual.
(5) The performance evaluation consists of a written appraisal of the employee’s job performance and a personal discussion with the employee. Information derived from the performance appraisal will be used to determine the employee’s eligibility for promotion and to identify training needs. The job performance of each employee will be evaluated on the basis of the job description. Each employee will have the opportunity to comment on and sign his/her annual evaluation. Supervisors are encouraged to discuss an employee’s job performance on an informal basis as the need arises.
(6) Central Texas 4C Head Start will maintain Personnel Policies and Practices which are consistent with the Community Services Block Grant, Subtitle B of Title VI of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-35), the Equal Opportunity Commission and by-laws. The Governing Board of Directors issues this statement of Personnel Policies and Practices as the official understanding of the obligations of the Board and the employees to each other and to the public. This statement will function as the guide to development and maintenance of detailed personnel procedures and to insure consistent personnel practices.
(7) Grievance Procedure - Employees may bring to the attention of their immediate supervisor complaints about work-related situations. Employees will be provided with an opportunity to present their complaints and appeal decisions by management through a formal complaint and grievance procedure. All complaints or grievances will be resolved fairly and promptly. A grievance will be acted on at each point in the proceedings within ten (10) working days. Employees will not, under any circumstances, be penalized for using the grievance procedure. Employees are responsible for ensuring that the grievance is fully processed until they are satisfied with the decision or until their right of appeal is exhausted.
(b) Staff recruitment and selection procedures. (1) It is the policy to fill vacant or new job positions with the best, qualified candidates. All decisions regarding the recruitment, selection, placement, and advancement of employees will be made solely on the basis of job-related criteria and satisfactory evidence of qualifications for the position. The employee recruitment process will be designed to provide the maximum employment opportunity for area residents and groups served. Central Texas 4C, Inc. will provide equal opportunity in employment.
(i) (ii) The Human Resource Director will receive and review applications for employment, set up and help conduct interviews, and obtain reference reports. The manager of the position that is being filled will be present during the interview. Policy Council members or parents may be asked to make recommendations prior to screening and in interviewing the applicants.
(1) (iii) State Licensing requires that every staff person have a criminal background check, which takes place immediately prior to hiring. All application forms will have a statement reflecting all pending criminal arrests and charges related to child sexual abuse and their disposition; conviction related to other forms of child abuse and neglect; and other convictions. All applications are reviewed individually in order to assess the relevancy of an arrest, a pending criminal charge, or a conviction. Criminal history checks are, in addition to hiring times, done on all employees every February.
(2)(i)(ii)(iii) All Head Start staff will sign a declaration statement related to an arrest, a pending criminal charge, or a conviction.
(3) Each application will be individually screened in order to assess the relevancy of an arrest, a pending criminal charge, or a conviction.
(c) Declaration exclusions.The declaration required by paragraph (b)(2) of this section may exclude:
(1) Traffic fines of $200.00 or less;
(2) Any offense, other than any offense related to child abuse and/or child sexual abuse or violent felonies, committed before the prospective employee’s 18th birthday which was finally adjudicated in a juvenile court or under a youth offender law;
(3) Any conviction the record of which has been expunged under Federal or State law; and
(4) Any conviction set aside under the Federal Youth Corrections Act or similar State authority.
(d) Introductory period.
Each new employee is placed on an introductory period. The length is specified in the CENTRAL TEXAS 4C Policy Manual.
(e) Reporting child abuse or sexual abuse.
Central Texas 4C Head Start will comply with the Texas Family Code, Section 261.101, regarding all instances of child abuse or neglect. The code states: if an early childhood professional has reason to suspect that a child is, has been, or may presently be abused or neglected, the professional must make an oral report to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services within 48 hours. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make this report; all staff will be trained in identification of child abuse. Behavioral indicators as well as the procedural aspects of dealing with suspected cases of child abuse will be made available to all staff members and maintained in the Procedures Manual. Assistance will be given to any staff member as needed.