September 2011 Guide to Reaching Out to Head Start and Child Care Programs

Critical Time for Early Learning Programs

The recent debt debate consumed a great deal of time in Washington over the summer, basically postponing most work on the FY 2012 budget. With the passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA) that will now change. The BCA mandates $1 trillion in budget cuts from domestic discretionary programs over ten years. For FY 2012, that means non-security programs, which include Head Start, Early Head Start and child care, will face around $3 billion in cuts. RESULTS and our allies are working to avoid that fate and repeat the success of last April when Head Start and child care services were essentially maintained in FY 2011. To ensure that these critical services are not cut, RESULTS is seeking a total annual allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start/Early Head Start and a $1.2 billion increase for the Child Care Development Block Grant. Help make this happen by engaging Head Start and child care “experts” (parents and staff) in this process and urge them to take action to protect their families served by these programs.

Engage Families and Local Staff in Protecting Head Start and Child Care

Last spring, many RESULTS groups began reaching out to local Head Start and Early Head Start programs. These meetings and/or site visits enabled us to better understand the critical role that Head Start and Early Head Start play in our communities. We then used this information about the importance of investments in early childhood development programs in letters, calls and meetings with policymakers. As Congress returns to Washington in September to begin work on the bills that will fund Head Start and child care services for low-income working families in 2012, use this month to connect or reconnect with Head Start programs and/or child care facilities and engage parents and staff in action to protect these critical services.

Option 1: Contact and Visit Your Local Head Start Program or Child Care Center

If your RESULTS group did not connect with a local Head Start center earlier this year or you want to reach out to a child care center receiving federal assistance, start with this action.

  1. Find contact information for your local Head Start programs or local child care centers serving low-income families. If your group is not already connected to local Head Start programs, the Early Childhood Learning Center through the Department of Head Start will help you locate a nearby Head Start program
  2. Call them and introduce yourself as a RESULTS volunteer in the community.
  3. Tell them that RESULTS groups across the country are lobbying Congress to increase funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care programs for low income families. RESULTS recognizes the important role these programs play in our community.
  4. Let them know how their expertise can help Congress better understand the importance of these programs.
  5. Schedule a time for your RESULTS group to do a site visit.
  6. During the meeting, find out more about the impact of Head Start and Early Head Start on families locally. Here are some questions you can ask during your conversation:
    • How many children and families do you currently serve?
    • What are the demographics of the people that you serve? (i.e. race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.)
    • Is there a strong demand for early childhood services in your community?
    • Do you have a wait list? How many children are on your wait list?
    • What are the benefits to having Head Start or child care programs in the community?
    • What is the feedback from the community about your program?
    • What are some of the barriers that you have in serving the families and children?
    • What are some of the barriers and struggles that you hear from your parents about participating in your programs? What do they like about Head Start services?
    • I think many members of Congress want to know how early childhood programs help low-income working families and reduce poverty. Can you give me some examples I can share?
    • One way that we like to advocate is by helping those directly impacted by policies tell personal stories that can bring the emotion appeal to the issues that we face, or relay their stories. Would any parents be willing to participate in a meeting with a member of Congress to tell their story? Do you know of any personal stories of your parents that we could relay to Congress?
    • How can we work more closely together in the future to support your work? (You might offer to train clients in advocacy skills, share the latest legislative information from Washington, etc. See below for more ideas.)
  7. Follow up to thank them for their time and let them know how your RESULTS group is using the information in our advocacy work.

Contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) for questions about and feedback from your visits.

Option 2: Reconnect with Your Local Head Start Program or Child Care Center to Engage Staff and Parents

If you have already connected and visited with your local Head Start or child care center, reconnect with that program to engage them in the budget debate in Congress over early childhood funding beginning this month.

  1. Call or stop by to reintroduce yourself with the local Head Start or child care center you previously contacted.
  2. Thank them once again for visiting with your local RESULTS group about their early childhood work. Explain how your group used the information you learned from your contact/site visit with the center in a recent letter, call or meeting with a member of Congress
  3. Explain to them that Congress is starting work on setting 2012 funding levels for Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant this month. Tell them that because of the recent Budget Control Act (the debt ceiling bill), early childhood programs are at risk for deep cuts in FY 2012 and beyond.
  4. Tell them that RESULTS groups are working hard to protect Head Start and child care services from any budget cuts and that we could use their help. Remind them that voices from those directly impacted by the services can be powerful and persuasive with lawmakers. Ask them if you could explore some ideas with them on how to possibly engage their parents and/or staff in this debate.
  5. Present options for how your RESULTS group might work with your local Head Start or child care center and other community partners who might be willing to take action early childhood funding:
    • Participate in a lobby meeting with your representative or senator and share their story. Relay that we often find that a sit-down meeting with a member of Congress provides an excellent opportunity to make sure policymakers understand the impact of these programs. You might share our Activist Milestone piece for tips on face-to-face lobby visits.
    • Arrange a site visit for your member of Congress to the Head Start or child care center. The best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of these early learning programs and their impact on the community to members of Congress (MoC) is for them to see things first-hand. Ask the site administrator if they would be willing to host a site visit from lawmakers. See our Activist Milestones for steps on how to arrange an MoC site visit and the Early Care and Education Consortium's site visit resources.
    • Organize a letter-writing meeting at a policy council meeting. Most Head Start centers have “policy councils” made up of parents and staff that oversee the local program. These councils meet on a regular basis. Ask if it would be possible for your group to attend an upcoming meeting to talk about the current budget debate and have council members write letters to lawmakers about protecting Head Start and child care services. See our Activist Milestones for steps on organizing a letter writing meeting.
    • Organize an advocacy training. If you are given the time, include an advocacy training as part of your presentation to the local policy council or child care center parents/staff. You will not only be able to get letters written on behalf of Head Start and child care at the meeting (letter-writing should be part of any advocacy training), but you also will give them the tools to take action again and again. See our Activist Milestone on training local groups in advocacy. Zero to Three has additional ideas of other early childhood professionals (and helpful tips!) you can engage in your local coalition work.
    • Speak to a local community group about RESULTS and/or one of our issues. To broaden your impact and engage others in early childhood advocacy, connect with other groups in your area and arrange an advocacy training or RESULTS presentation. These could include faith communities, local anti-poverty organizations, community allies, local colleges or universities, neighborhood associations, etc. See our Activist Milestone on how to connect with other organizations in your area and speak to them about RESULTS and our issues.
  6. When arranging a site visit or presentation, be sure to confirm where it will be, how much ftime you will have and approximately how many people will attend.
  7. Once you decided on a specific action, contact RESULTS Domestic staff Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) for coaching advice on your presentation, as well as to request any materials you’ll need.