Supporting Families in Region XI AIAN Head Start: Centers’ Early Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication Date: December 7, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. What strategies did children’s centers use to communicate with and provide services to families during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. What needs did families have during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic? On average, did children’s centers provide supports that corresponded with families’ needs?
  3. How did the services and referrals provided to children and families change during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic?

This research brief uses nationally representative data from the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (AIAN FACES 2019) to understand how Region XI Head Start children’s centers responded early in the COVID-19 pandemic to support children and families. It describes the strategies that children’s centers used to communicate with families and the needs that families reported to center staff. It also explores whether children’s centers provided supports that corresponded with families’ needs and how the services and referrals that children’s centers provided to children and families changed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purpose

The purpose of this brief is to explore how Region XI Head Start children’s centers responded early in the COVID-19 pandemic to support children and families. The objectives of this research brief are to examine how children’s centers communicated with families, the needs families expressed to children’s centers, and the supports children’s centers provided to children and families.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, most children’s centers used physical delivery or pick-up locations, telephone calls, and social media accounts for communication with multiple families and for contacting individual families. Children’s centers also used e-messaging to contact individual families.
  • Children’s centers used a combination of strategies to continue providing services early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Most children’s centers provided remote learning opportunities and either dropped off materials, food, and supplies or established family pick-up sites for distributing those items.
  • Children’s centers described a variety of family needs early in the COVID-19 pandemic, most commonly for food and nutrition supports and for educational activities to support children’s learning at home. In a majority of children’s centers, families also expressed needs for housing and transportation assistance, and child care. In more than half of children’s centers, families also expressed needs for in-person social gathering.
  • Many children’s centers provided supports that corresponded with some of families’ most pressing needs, including food and nutrition supports and educational activities for families to use at home.
  • As most children’s centers physically closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most children’s centers also reduced the number of in-person home visits and in-person social gatherings for children and families. However, many began providing virtual home visits and social gathering, or provided more of these virtual events than before the pandemic.

Methods

The AIAN FACES 2019 sample provides nationally representative information about Region XI Head Start children, their families, programs, centers, and classrooms. We selected a nationally representative sample of Region XI Head Start programs from the 2016—2017 Head Start Program Information Report, with one or two centers per program and two to four classrooms per center. Within each classroom, we randomly selected 13 children for the study. In fall 2019, 22 programs, 40 centers, 85 classrooms and 720 children and their parents participated in the study; 686 children and their parents were eligible for the spring 2020 follow-up.

Center directors completed the center director survey from March through July 2020. Twenty center directors, reporting on 25 centers, completed COVID-19 questions that were added to the survey in June 2020. The sample used for this brief includes 430 children who were enrolled in Region XI Head Start in spring 2020 and who had center directors who completed the COVID-19 related questions.

All findings are weighted to represent this population of children who were enrolled in Region XI Head Start programs in fall 2019 and were still enrolled in spring 2020. The weights used in this brief are based on children who had completed center director surveys before the addition of the new COVID-19 questions. We estimated means and percentages to describe the approaches children’s centers used to communicate with families, the needs families expressed to children’s centers, and the supports children’s centers provided to children and families.

Citation

Gonzalez, K., S. Bernstein, L. Malone, A. Larson, and the AIAN FACES 2019 Workgroup. “Supporting Families in Region XI AIAN Head Start: Centers’ Early Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. OPRE Report # 2021-182. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2021.

Related Documents

Dang, M., S. Bernstein, E. Doran, A. Li, A. Kopack Klein, N. Reid, M. Scott, S. Rakibullah, J. Cannon, J. Harrington, A. Larson, N. Aikens, L. Tarullo, and L. Malone. “Descriptive Data on Region XI Head Start Children and Families: AIAN FACES Spring 2020 Data Tables and Study Design.” OPRE Report #2021-181, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021.

Glossary

AIAN FACES:
American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey