Head Start Collaboration Project

Health Care

Healthy Children

A significant benefit of the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Initiative has been the focus on building stronger linkages between health care and early care and education providers. Through the ECCS Initiative, the Department of Health and representatives of health care providers across the state have become actively involved in a comprehensive system of services for families of young children. 

This being the case, one of four focus areas of the ECCS Plan is Healthy Children, which includes strategies to address prenatal care, breast-feeding support, access to health insurance, accessibility of a medical home for all children, children’s socio-emotional development and mental health, and child care health and safety.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Giving all children the opportunity for a healthy birth and strong start in life begins with a healthy pregnancy. An important strategy for improving birth outcomes includes preventing prenatal alcohol exposure and better serving families affected by such exposure.

While there are programs in New York State funded to support families affected by prenatal alcohol exposure, there is a statewide need to better understand existing resources and coordinate screening, prevention and intervention services. To address this need, the Collaboration Project has taken a leadership role with the NYS Office of Children and Family Services and the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services to organize an interdisciplinary work group of nine state agencies to address issues regarding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). 

Two important products developed by the workgroup for use by providers, family members and the general public include:

  1. The FASD Interagency Workgroup’s website, housed at the Council and available to the public via www.ccf.ny.gov/FASD/. This central space is a uniting presence for statewide efforts.
  2. The practice guide, Take Another Look: A Guide on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders for School Psychologists and Counselors. The Council partnered with the New York Association of School Psychologists for distribution of the Guide. This distribution of the booklet has met with extraordinary success among school psychologists and counselors across the state and the first printing is exhausted. 

FASD packets are being distributed to advanced practice professionals, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers and nurse midwives who see women in their practice but may not discuss pregnancy or alcohol use but who could easily add a few questions and brief intervention skills to their already impressive advance clinical practices. 

Oral Health

New York State was chosen as one of eleven states to participate in the Office of Head Start and American Academy of Pediatric Dentists Dental Home Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to link every child to a dental home which will provide screening, treatment, and where necessary, referral for specialized services.

Collaboration Project staff serve as a member of a statewide Oral Health Coalition comprised of over 150 individuals and organizations including several Head Start programs that are working together to ensure that all children, particularly low-income children, have access to dental care services.

Health Insurance

Collaboration Project staff are working closely with staff of the Governor’s Office and the Department of Health to enroll New York’s uninsured children in Child Health Plus (New York’s Health Insurance Program for children). Recent statewide Program Information Reports statistics show that fully seven percent of Head Start and Early Head Start children are not enrolled in health insurance.

Various statewide enrollment strategies are being developed and implemented to reduce the percentage of uninsured children in Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Mental Health

The recent release of the Children's Plan: Improving the Social and Emotional Well-being of New York's Children and Their Families marks a significant change philosophy and direction of the State Office of Mental Health. The Plan expands the focus of the agency beyond chronic care to the promotion of social and emotional development and well-being, and the prevention and early intervention of problems that may lead to serious mental health issues. The Head Start Collaboration Project has taken a lead role in implementing one of the Plan’s strategies which is to develop a social marketing campaign to raise awareness of the importance of healthy social-emotional development and investigate effective strategies for early learning programs in supporting the social-emotional development of the children they serve.
In view of this, staff are investigating the efficacy of developing a network of mental health consultants for supporting early learning program staff and parents in working with children experiencing social-emotional difficulties. Mental health consultation is an evidence-based strategy for supporting programs and providing a link to the mental health services systems for children experiencing difficulties. To determine whether such an approach could be implemented in New York, the work group is reviewing research and conducting site visits around the state to programs that have implemented a mental health consultation strategy.  

Obesity Prevention

Responding to the increasing alarm in New York and other states over the unhealthy weight gain in young children, Head Start Collaboration Project staff attended the “I Am Moving, I Am Learning”  training and action planning session in October 2007.

The sessions resulted in programs committing to making staff and program changes that encourage healthier food choices, increased activity for staff and children, and educational messages for everyone, including the families of the Head Start and Early Head Start students. Technical assistant specialists have facilitated subsequent meetings of participants across the state. The Collaboration Office has supported these efforts while working to bridge this initiative with others sponsored by the Health Department.