Head Start helps kids, families

Your Inc. Head Start provides many health services for its children, including vision, dental and mental health.

“Within the first 45 days we do a speech screening, and we collaborate with our local (Area Education Agency),” Laura Erickson-Huss, special services coordinator, said. “And then we do a hearing screen, to make sure all of our children can hear. We do a developmental screen. And then we do Ages & Stages, which is a social and emotional screening.”

The program’s children also receive a growth assessment to measure their height and weight, Michelle Carden, education supervisor, said.

“We do that three times a year, just to make sure they are growing where they need to go. And if there’s a bit of an issue, we work with our nurse consultant,” she said.

The program uses the information from the screenings to assess the children during the year, Erickson-Huss said, and better focus on their needs.

“For our vision screening, if that comes back that they need to be seen by an eye doctor, we make sure we follow up on that and make sure they get to a doctor to get their vision checked,” she said. “And if they need glasses we track that and make sure we’re providing that service to the families.”

Head Start is also required to provide transportation information to both its children and their parents within the first 30 days, Carden said.

“Our staff meet with the parents and go over how to ride in a car, how to use a car seat, how to cross the road,” she said. “Throughout the first 30 days of our program with the children, we’re doing the same thing. How to load onto the bus, how to cross the road, how to walk in a parking lot. We also practice safe bus evacuation.”

Services are also provided for the families, Carden said.

“They talk about goals for the family,” she said. “Their goals can be, I want to go back to college or I want to find my own house. Our family service workers are working with them to set the goal, and then they give them the information, the resources we have in the community or within Head Start, to help them meet those goals.”

Many components are required in weekly lessons, Carden said.

“The teaching staff is required each week to put in a nutrition component, where they’re either teaching a lesson or doing a hands-on activity. They’re required to provide a safety component, which could be crossing in the parking lot or going with a stranger,” she said. “We’re required to do a social story, something on how to make friends, the nice way to share.”

Healthy choices are especially emphasized, Erickson-Huss said.

“Our nutrition component in our Head Start program is huge,” she said. “We provide healthy meals for our children and teach them these are the things you need to be eating. We inform our parents, too, on making better food choices for their children so they live healthier.”

Children in Head Start brush their teeth after they eat, Erickson-Huss said, and receive fluoride treatments from I-Smile.

“We teach the kids the proper brushing technique and the importance of that, and we share that with the families, too, so they’re brushing at home. Because we need to be promoting good oral care,” she said.

The services are necessary, Carden said.

“Our families are low income,” she said. “They don’t know about the services that are in the community. They don’t think they have the money or the time or the need to go to the eye doctor. If we provide it here and we say, yes, there is a need, then they can carry on with what they need.”