'Kids on Campus': Collaborative Efforts Between Community Colleges and Head Start To Enhance Affordable Child Care Access for Student ParentsBy Joy Liwanag
The National Head Start Association (NHSA) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) have embarked on a collaborative initiative titled "Kids on Campus," aimed at bridging early learning opportunities with community college settings.
This five-year project, launched recently, seeks to facilitate partnerships between Head Start programs and community colleges, offering a pathway to support both young children and their college-going parents.
Addressing Barriers to Early Learning and Childcare
Insufficient access to childcare and early learning programs poses significant obstacles for the approximately 1.7 million parents enrolled in community colleges nationwide. According to Jay Nardini, chair of ACCT's board of directors, single parents, particularly those with children under the age of five, face considerable challenges. The "Kids on Campus" initiative aims to alleviate these challenges by providing Head Start services tailored to eligible community college parents.
Currently, 130 community colleges across the country house Early Head Start programs for children under three or Head Start programs catering to three- to five-year-olds. NHSA underscores the importance of integrating Head Start programs into various community settings, including colleges, to ensure accessibility for children from low-income families.
Unlocking the Potential of Collaborative Partnerships
NHSA's Executive Director, Yasmina Vinci, highlights the synergy between Head Start and community colleges, emphasizing their complementary roles in delivering comprehensive education. The benefits of these partnerships are manifold, including free, high-quality childcare and early education for eligible community college parents. Additionally, the expertise provided by Head Start ensures the seamless operation of on-site childcare facilities.
The "Kids on Campus" initiative envisions Head Start locations strategically positioned near target populations, leveraging on-campus facilities with reduced or waived rent. By sharing examples from existing partnerships, such as Manchester Community College's collaboration with Southern New Hampshire Services, the project aims to provide practical insights for implementation.
At Manchester Community College, the partnership with a local Head Start provider facilitates an on-campus child development program, accommodating both Head Start participants and other children. This integrated approach not only supports parents pursuing higher education but also offers valuable learning opportunities for students studying relevant disciplines.
Navigating Challenges and Fostering Success
Despite the potential benefits, challenges lie in aligning college and Head Start schedules and addressing confusion among families regarding eligibility criteria. The "Kids on Campus" user guide addresses these challenges, offering strategies to streamline partnership processes and enhance service delivery.
As NHSA and ACCT strive to strengthen connections between Head Start programs and community colleges, the "Kids on Campus" initiative heralds a promising pathway toward supporting educational attainment for both parents and children. By fostering collaborative partnerships and addressing barriers to access, this initiative endeavors to create inclusive and supportive learning environments within community college campuses.
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