May 2011 U.S. Poverty Laser Talk

This month, RESULTS groups are connecting to local Head Start programs, the focus of the RESULTS May 2011 U.S. Poverty Action. We want to better inform our advocacy on Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) by visiting a local Head Start center. Visiting your local Head Start center will give you the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of Head Start and its impact in your community. By meeting with staff and parents, you can get the data and stories necessary to impact members of Congress on this issue. A recent survey of congressional staff showed that when asked what best influences members of Congress on the issues, demonstrating how an issue or policy affects people in their home state or district was at the top of the list. Visiting your local Head Start center will help provide you the details about that impact. Below is a model of an initial conversation setting up your site visit.

Ring, ring.

Receptionist: Good morning, Drake Head Start, may I help you?

Volunteer: Yes, my name is Rebecca Van Maren and I would like to talk to someone about scheduling a site visit to your Head Start center.

Receptionist: Let me connect you with our Outreach Coordinator. Hold please.

Volunteer: Thank you.

Outreach Coordinator: Good morning, this is Meredith.

Volunteer: Yes, Meredith. My name is Rebecca Van Maren and I am a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization working to end hunger and poverty. One of our campaigns this year to protecting Head Start and child care programs at the federal level. We have been writing, calling and meeting with representatives and senators, urging them to protect these important services by not cutting program funding. Here in Columbus, we have about 15 volunteers who meet monthly to take action on these issues.

Outreach Coordinator: That’s very impressive. How can I help you then?

Volunteer: Well, considering the threat Head Start faces in Congress this year, we want to make sure we are being as effective as we can be in our advocacy. So the purpose of my call is to see if members of our local RESULTS group could visit your center to learn more about your program. Our goal is to gather information and stories about the impact of Head Start on children and families here in Columbus that we can then use in our contacts with members of Congress. As you know, what legislators want to know is how a certain program or policy is affecting their constituents. Considering that many members of Congress are not well informed about the benefits Head Start brings to our community both short and long-term, we want to make sure they get that information. Thus, would scheduling a visit be possible?

Outreach Coordinator: I think that’s certainly a possibility. What things are you looking to do while here?

Volunteer: Well, we want to be sensitive to you and your staff and by no means want to disrupt your schedule too much. Ideally, it would be great to meet with you or another staff person for a tour of your facility to get an overview of your program, including the services you offer and the impact recent funding increases have had. We would also love to talk with one or more of your parents as well, if possible, just to hear what they think of the program and how it has helped them and their children. Would that work?

Outreach Coordinator: I think we can make that work. I can’t guarantee that our parents will want to talk to you but I’ll ask around. When would you like to come?

Volunteer: Whenever it is convenient for you. Is there is a particular day and time that would be easier for you and your staff?

Outreach Coordinator: Usually Tuesday afternoons are good. How about next Tuesday at 3:00pm. We can give you about an hour.

Volunteer: That would be great, Meredith. Thank you so much. We really appreciate your time and flexibility to accommodate us. We will plan to meet you next Tuesday at 3:00pm. Also, would you like me to send you some information about RESULTS so you can learn more about us before our visit?

Outreach Coordinator: Yes, that would be good. My e-mail is __________________.

Volunteer: Thank you again, Meredith. I will send you something later today. Here is my phone number in case you need to get in touch with me for any reason.

Site Visit Questions

Here are a few questions you could ask during your site visit. While you don’t have to use these exact questions, it will hopefully get you thinking about other questions you could ask.

  • What are the demographics of the families that you serve?

  • How many children and families are in your program?

  • What are the benefits to having Head Start programs in the community?

  • Is there a strong demand for Head Start and Early Head Start services in your community?

  • What are some of the barriers that you have in serving the families and children?

  • And, how can I connect with parents? Can I do an advocacy training at an upcoming policy council meeting?

These are just a few questions to get you thinking. You can find a complete list of prompt questions on the May Action sheet. If you need some help finding where your local Head Start program is, there’s a link to the locator on the May Action Sheet