In 1992 the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) funded a 3-year project designed to evaluate the delivery of Head Start services in family child care home settings and to compare those services with the services provided in traditional center classroom settings. The family child care home services were intended for 4-year-old children in the year prior to kindergarten. Eligibility was limited to parents who were either working, in school, or in a job-training program.
The primary purposes of the evaluation were to:
- Determine whether the full range of Head Start services (child development, education, and health) could be successfully provided in family child care homes;
- Assess the program implementation characteristics necessary to meet the Head Start Performance Standards in family child care homes;
- Compare the overall quality of family child care homes with that of center classrooms; and
- Determine whether the outcomes for children and parents in family child care homes were comparable to the outcomes for children and parents in center classrooms.
The evaluation design called for data collection in the fall of the Head Start year, in the spring of the Head Start year, and in kindergarten. Data collection staff:
- Interviewed parents to obtain information on child and family background characteristics and perceptions about the services received;
- Observed family child care homes and center classrooms that served comparison group children to evaluate the comprehensives and quality of services in both settings;
- Interviewed agency staff and individual caregivers in both settings to learn more about the process of implementing Head Start in family child care homes, to gather information about caregiver background, and to determine compliance with Head Start Program Performance Standards;.
- Reviewed agency records to evaluate compliance with Head Start Program Performance Standards;
- Conducted individual assessments with participating children to measure cognitive, social-emotional, and physical growth; and
- Collected caregiver ratings of each child's social development.
Highlights of the study's findings include:
- Family child care homes were able to meet the requirements of the Head Start Program Performance Measures and appear to be a viable option for delivery of Head Start services.
- By the end of the program year, children assigned to family child care homes performed at least as well as those in center classrooms on measures of school readiness.
- Parent outcomes did not differ significantly by setting.
- Children in the two settings performed equally well in kindergarten on measures of cognitive, social-emotional, and physical outcomes.
- Program quality measures were correlated with children's scores on cognitive development, both in the program year and in the kindergarten follow-up year.