Supporting positive parent-child relationships
It is the end of another school year and the good word is out about the strength of Hephzibah’s Head Start Programs. While both the Early Head Start and Head Start Programs currently are at capacity, there will be a waiting list of participants when the programs resume in the fall. That is because Hephzibah goes above and beyond what is expected.
While the goal of the federal Head Start Program is to promote school readiness for children ages birth to 5 from low-income families, Hephzibah’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs also work to support the needs of the parents and families. At regular meetings and trainings, families are engaged in the goal of making certain that their child is achieving their educational and developmental milestones.
“We are proud of the diverse population of families in the program and more and more families are coming to us through word of mouth,” says Melissa Smith, director of Head Start. “We support the parents and families by offering a programs and resources to help them with their goals, and they share their experience with other families.
The Head Start team is committed to building relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being and the development of strong networks within the community. Each month, the families receive health, educational, nutritional, social and other services. There are also frequent social gatherings like potluck meals, giving families the opportunity to share their cultural traditions. At one of the gatherings this past year, two families of Iranian descent prepared a traditional meal for the other families to enjoy.
In addition to the creative, classroom-based curriculum, the children learn through field trips and other experiential activities. This year, those trips included visits to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier – a new experience for most of the children – and the local fire station. Last fall, the Hephzibah playground was transformed into a “pumpkin patch” where the children also had the chance to pick apples and take hayrides in a wagon.
Concurrently, the families are learning about important childhood developmental milestones and their role in helping their child achieve these milestones. They also participate in trainings and classes to help them achieve their own goals. This year, these included a financial services expert who provided financial literacy training funded by a grant from Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest, and an immigration lawyer who discussed immigrant rights and answered questions.
“The environment is changing rapidly and we want to create a sense of family within the program so everyone feels welcome and supported,” Melissa says.
Enrollment for the 2017-2018 academic year is now open and limited slots are available. For information about Hephzibah’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, contact Evangeline Leggin, Family Support Specialist at (708) 649-7101.