Early Head start effects of research on children and/or families
Early Head Start programs must adhere to the Head Start Program Performance Standards. In the implementation study phase of the evaluation (reported in two reports, Pathways to Quality and Leading the Way), programs were systematically rated on the extent to which they implemented the performance standards. Early Head Start programs that implemented the standards early (by 1997 site visits) or later (by 1999) demonstrated a broader pattern of significant impacts than was true for the several programs that were not rated as fully implemented in 1999. This finding underscores the importance of adherence to the performance standards for producing a breadth of impacts for children and parents.
Impacts Differ by Approach Programs choosing different approaches to serving families achieved different patterns of success. Programs were characterized according to the options they offer families as (1) center-based (providing all services to families through center-based child care and education, parent education, and a minimum of two home visits per year to each family); (2) home-based (serving families through weekly home visits and at least two group socialization per month for each family); or (3) mixed (providing center-based services to some families, home-based services to other families, or a mixture of center-based and home-based services, either at the same or at different times). By fall 1997, seven programs were home-based, four were center-based, and six were mixed programs. Impacts among center-based programs centered on enhancing children’s cognitive and social-emotional development; these programs had some favorable impacts on aspects of parenting, but few on parents’ self-sufficiency.
Home-based programs in general had some impact on children’s social-emotional development and reduced parenting stress, relative to the control group parents. The home-based programs that were fully implemented, however, had impacts on cognitive and language development at age 3 that have not generally been found in evaluations of home visiting programs.
Mixed-approach programs demonstrated the strongest pattern of impacts for the families they served. The mixed-approach programs consistently enhanced children’s language development and aspects of social-emotional development. These programs also enhanced a wide range of parenting behaviors and participation in self-sufficiency-oriented activities. The mixed-approach programs that became fully implemented early had a particularly strong pattern of impacts.