|Decision Makers:||Community Members Educators Local Government State Government Federal Government|
|Population Reach:||1-9% of WI's population|
|Impact on Disparities:|
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Early Head Start (EHS) is a federally funded program for low income pregnant women and children ages 0 to 3. EHS’ comprehensive approach includes child care, parent education, health and mental health services, and family support. EHS programs can be home-based, center-based, or offer a mix of home and center services (PPN).
There is strong evidence that Early Head Start (EHS) increases participating children’s cognitive and social-emotional skills (PPN, Vogel 2013, Chazan-Cohen 2013). Small social-emotional effects appear to continue through age 10 (Vogel 2010).
EHS modestly improves attention and focus (Vogel 2013), language (Chazan-Cohen 2013), cognitive and social emotional skills (e.g., social functioning and emotional regulation) (PPN, Harden 2012, Vogel 2013) and reduces aggressive behavior among participating children (Vogel 2013). Enhanced language skills can help children better control themselves and regulate emotions, reducing parental stress and improving parent-child interactions (Ayoub 2011).
EHS can improve parenting (Vogel 2013, Vallotton 2011), parent supportiveness, and engagement (Harden 2012), and increase use of positive discipline (Chazan-Cohen 2013) while reducing spanking (Harden 2012). EHS can also bolster parent’s ability to cognitively stimulate and positively interact with children despite high stress (Ayoub 2011). EHS can lead parents to create home environments that support learning (Harden 2012, Vogel 2013) and enroll their children in formal pre-kindergarten programs (Harden 2012). Stress can harm children's vocabulary development, but in some circumstances, EHS can help children develop vocabulary despite family stress (Vallotton 2011).
Parent participants in home-based EHS have demonstrated increases in school or job training participation and sustained improvements in income (Chazan-Cohen 2013). Income effects can be stronger in higher quality programs offering more child and family services (Harden 2012).
EHS can be especially effective for black participants (PPN, Vallotton 2011, Raikes 2013). Compared to controls, black parent participants are more likely to be employed or in school, and report a small reduction in their children’s hospitalization needs (Harden 2012a). Some outcomes may also last longer for black participants than for white participants (Raikes 2013). EHS can also be especially effective for girls’ language skills (Ayoub 2011), and can improve vocabulary for ESL speakers by the time they enter kindergarten (Vogel 2013, Raikes 2013).
In 2012-13, 150,000 children were enrolled in Early Head Start, about 4% of children ages 0-3 who live in poverty (Child Trends-Head Start 2014).
In 2009-2010, 20 Wisconsin EHS programs served a total of 2,175 infants and toddlers. Five programs served American Indian communities, and six were newly established using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The federal government funded 94% of EHS services and Wisconsin contributed the other 6% (WHSA).
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