Access is More than Eligibility

Findings from a new national survey, conducted in partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, of 2,400 practitioners on barriers to access affirm access to Early Head Start and Head Start means more than eligibility. It means working to remove barriers by providing transportation to families, hiring diverse staff, and creating strong partnerships to reach and support all eligible families.

The survey focused on identifying state policies and practices which serve as discriminatory barriers. A prerequisite to reaching this answer was identifing the top seven barriers to access.

Top Seven Barriers to Access

  1. Lack of transportation and/or geolocation of center-based care
  2. Low income limits and Early Head Start and Head Start eligibility issues with other state-led funding streams
  3. Lack of overall Early Head Start and Head Start supply (e.g. wait lists, sibling issue, Early Head Start especially)
  4. Inadequate hours of service (duration) by Head Start programs
  5. Early Head Start and Head Start workforce dynamics, including a lack of bilingual staff, staff turnover, and difficulties with hiring a representative, diverse workforce
  6. Lack of parent awareness of Early Head Start and Head Start and perceptions of quality and types of services provided
  7. Wide mix of socioeconomic issues related to poverty, including housing instability, mental health challenges, the digital divide, lack of employment, etc. Alone, these issues would not make the list, but when factored as a whole, have a substantial impact on access.

Dimensions of access include: outreach and enrollment free from prejudice, bias, and discrimination; ease of attendance; and the ability to receive high-quality and accountable services, linguistically and culturally appropriate services, and services that meet family needs.

Watch NHSA's webinar discussing the findings of the survey and download the slides.

Kent Mitchell

Kent Mitchell

Kent Mitchell is NHSA's senior director of State Affairs.

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