The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, or Baby FACES, is the latest contribution to an ongoing research effort that began with the inception of the Early Head Start program. The Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Mathematica and its partners to implement a study that builds on the body of Early Head Start research and provides new information to guide program implementation and improvement. The study comes at an important period in the Early Head Start program, beginning the year before a major expansion that increased the size of the program by nearly 50,000 children in 2009–2010 (ACF 2010).
Baby FACES is a longitudinal descriptive study of Early Head Start that captures family-and child-level information in addition to program-level characteristics. From a nationally representative sample of 89 programs, we enrolled 976 parents of children who were in two age cohorts in spring 2009: 194 newborns, which includes pregnant women and children up to 8 weeks old, and 782 1-year-olds, which includes children aged 10 to 15 months. We gathered detailed information from program directors on program operations, services, management, and characteristics of staff and enrolled families. In addition, we gathered targeted information on participant families from parent interviews; Staff-Child Reports (SCRs) prepared by study children’s teachers or home visitors; individual interviews with those staff members; and observations of study children’s classrooms and home visits. When the children are 2 and 3 years old, we will conduct direct child assessments to measure cognitive and language development and record their interactions with their parents. In addition, in the future we will conduct exit interviews with families who drop out of the program before their child turns 3 to learn why they leave and where they go, and with families who stay through age 3 to learn about transitions out of Early Head Start and the post-Early Head Start services these families receive.
Research questions for Baby FACES address four aims: (1) describing Early Head Start and program services and staff, (2) describing the population served by the program, (3) relating program services to child and family outcomes, and (4) assessing the properties of measures used in the study. Because this is the first year of a multiyear effort, some questions will only be answered in later years when additional data have been obtained.