Early Head Start
Purpose - The mission of STEP Head Start is to foster hope, growth, self-sufficiency and social competence in children and their families in partnership with parents and the community.
Vision - The vision of STEP Head Start is to be a catalyst for inspiring positive change and fostering hope in children, families and the community.
Program Overview - Early Head Start provides early, continuous and comprehensive year-round child development and family support services to pregnant women, infants and toddlers, including those with disabilities. Highly qualified, trained and caring staff provide comprehensive services that help children grow educationally, physically, socially and emotionally. We believe parents are every child’s most important teachers and encourage parent participation in all program activities and partner with parents to help children succeed. There is no cost to participants
Children from birth through age three, including those with disabilities, and pregnant women in Lycoming and Clinton Counties are eligible for enrollment. Head Start accepts applications year-round and fills vacancies from its waiting list as they occur. While children from low-income families have enrollment priority, children from higher income families may be enrolled as well.
- Education: Individualized learning experiences that foster every child’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth.
- Health: Physical and dental examinations, immunizations, comprehensive health screenings and any necessary follow-up services.
- Nutrition: Nutritious snacks and lunches that meet USDA standards; nutrition education for children and parents.
- Family Engagement: Individualized family partnerships, goal setting and personal support; recognition that parents are every child’s first and most important teachers; volunteer opportunities.
- Parent Decision-Making: opportunities for parents to participate in program planning and decision-making, sharing program governance with the STEP Board of Directors.
- Social Services: Support and referrals that help families improve their lives.
- Support for Children with Disabilities: Early identification and intervention to support children with disabilities and inclusion in all program activities.
- Services to Pregnant Women: The Early Head Start Health Specialist visits the homes of pregnant women to support positive maternal and child health.
There are two Early Head Start program models:
- Center-Based: There are two center-based classes of eight children each in Lycoming County. The Clinton County Community Center in Lock Haven has two center-based classes of eight children each. Each class of eight infants and toddlers is supervised by two (2) teachers, assuring individualized care and comprehensive early learning experiences. Classes meet year-round.
- Home-Based: Early Head Start home visitors make weekly 90 minute visits to the homes of 10 – 12 infants, toddlers and their families supporting early learning and the parents’ role as the child’s first teacher. Children and families living in the Williamsport or Lock Haven area are enrolled in the Home-Based program model. Monthly playgroups are special opportunities for home-based children and families to socialize and learn together. Visits and playgroups are year-round.
- Early Head Start infants, toddlers and pregnant women receive comprehensive services, including quality early learning experiences to foster social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth.
- Pregnant women receive supportive maternal and child health care services including prenatal and postpartum health care, mental health interventions and follow-up, substance abuse prevention, prenatal education on fetal development and information on the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers are linked to an ongoing source of continuous, accessible health care.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers are up-to-date on a schedule of age-appropriate preventive and primary health care.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers are determined by a health care professional to be up-to-date on all immunizations appropriate for their age.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers are up-to-date on a schedule of age-appropriate preventive and primary oral health care.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers complete routine screenings for developmental, sensory and behavioral concerns and those identified as needing follow-up or formal evaluation receive it.
- Early Head Start infants and toddlers with disabilities receive inclusive early intervention services.
- Early Head Start families receive supportive social services and referrals on topics that include parenting, health, child abuse and neglect prevention, mental health, housing assistance, adult education and job training, child support, and emergency/crisis intervention.
- Volunteer hours are contributed to the Early Head Start program by many volunteers, including parents, who practice parenting and other child development skills, receive training on a wide variety of requested subjects, and participate in program planning and decision-making.
- Early Head Start fathers and father figures participate in organized activities designed to support their bond with the child.
- Early Head Start teachers and home visitors are qualified to provide services according to federal regulations.