Early Childhood Education on the Ground: Head Start Visit in North Carolina
To get an on the ground look at child care and early childhood education, I decided to visit the Chapel Hill Training- Outreach Project (CHTOP) during a trip to my home state of North Carolina. I was fortunate that Mike Mathers, Executive Director of CHTOP, and Angela Wilcox, Director of Orange County Head Start and Early Head Start, took the time to meet with me and shared information about their program with me.
The Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project was started with federal funding in 1969 to provide educational services to children with disabilities. During the early years of this program the staff under the direction of the founder, Anne R. Sanford, created an innovative approach to education know as the “Chapel Hill Model.” The model, which is now referred to as the Learning Accomplishment Profile (LAP) System, is innovative because it emphasizes parental, family, and community involvement, as well as being responsive to each individual child’s needs and respect for what makes them unique.
Meeting with Mike and Angela, and hearing them speak about the programs they operate, only confirmed this amazing model and their commitment to keeping Early Head Start and Head Start a family program at its core. According to the 2011 Annual Report, Orange County Head start served 85 children, while Orange County Early Head Start served 173 participants, including 3 pregnant mothers. They are sure to have their parents as integral members on their Policy Council, which makes business decisions as well as decisions on policies that affect the children.
The Orange County Head Start and Early Head Start provides Center-based care in their Fairview Child and Family Center, community partnership care through schools and other child care centers they collaborate with, as well as a home-based option where they do weekly visits to homes and do lessons with parents about nutrition and child care. They spoke about how increased funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped them expand their services. Due to ARRA, CHTOP was able to:
- Create a Early Head Start site in Durham County that now serves approximately 64 children to date
- Expand Orange County enrollment from 100 children to 150 children
- Expand their facilities by adding 2 new buildings to the Fairview Child and Family Center they own
These wonderful expansions show the importance of increased funding. When asked what they would do with more funds, Mike and Angela both spoke about how they would want to provide travel subsidies to their parents since gas is still a huge expense for childcare. They also spoke about how they would want to increase the pay of their dedicated and talented workers, to help retain quality teachers for their students. Lastly, they are always interested in trying to serve more children. For example, the new Durham County Early Head Start site that was started with ARRA funds currently has a waiting list of 445 children.
This was a wonderfully illuminating visit that shows the importance of investing in Early Childhood Development. CHTOP has greatly benefited from increased funding and have done so much, but as we can see, there is always work to be done. If you are interested in learning more about Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project, please visit their website or contact me, Tavia Benjamin, [email protected].