Evaluation of the Head Start Family Service Center Demonstration Projects (FSC), 1991-1996

Project Overview

The Family Service Center (FSC) demonstration projects were initiated in 1990 to enable Head Start programs to provide a more comprehensive set of services to address problems of low literacy, employability, and substance abuse among Head Start families. The FSC projects were intended to build on and expand services in the three focus areas by collaborating with other community agencies and organizations. A secondary goal of the FSCs was to increase the ability of Head Start families to achieve self-sufficiency.

The Family Service Centers (FSC) were three-year demonstration projects funded by grants from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All Head Start grantees were eligible to apply for the funds. A total of 65 FSC projects were funded by ACYF in three cohorts or waves over three fiscal years (12 from Wave I, 28 from Wave II and 25 from Wave III), with the average grant totaling $250,000 a year. Projects were located in 36 states throughout the country, including projects associated with Migrant Head Start and Head Start programs on Indian Reservations.

Evaluation and Design

Two types of evaluation activities were undertaken for the FSC projects. These included local evaluations conducted by third-party evaluators hired by individual FSCs, and a national evaluation of projects from the final cohort. The local evaluations were responsive to each specific demonstration project and included both formative and summative information about process and outcome variables. The national evaluation described the services and activities of the FSCs as well as the process of implementing these demonstration projects. The national evaluation assessed the impact of the FSCs on participating families, with particular focus on employability, substance abuse, and adult literacy. The national evaluation collected information from project directors and case managers about program services and implementation issues and included in-person interviews, on-site reviews, and literacy tests for families who were randomly assigned to the FSCs or control groups.

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