The Study of Disability Services Coordinators and Inclusion in Head Start, 2019-2024

Project Overview

This study will provide a national picture of the Disability Services Coordinators (DSC) workforce for Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS), including American Indian/Alaska Native (Region XI) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) (Region XII) grantees. It will also explore practices and policies for working with staff, families, children, and the community. This effort will explore how EHS/HS serves children with disabilities and their families and will seek to understand how EHS/HS collaborates with services in the community, including health providers, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and early intervention services.

The study goals include the following:

  1. To describe the characteristics and work of DSCs and related staff in EHS/HS programs;
  2. To identify how children with disabilities and their families are served by EHS/HS (i.e., through recruitment and selection, screening, ongoing assessment, evaluation, and the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process and implementation);
  3. To identify how EHS/HS programs engage in capacity building with families and provide supportive services to families as they understand and advocate for their children with potential or identified disabilities, delays, or other issues, such as early childhood mental health concerns or chronic health impairments;
  4. To identify what EHS/HS programs do when services are not available and/or when children do not meet Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) eligibility requirements;
  5. To identify how EHS/HS programs engage with services in the community, including LEAs, IDEA Parts B and C providers, early intervention services, health and mental health providers, and community programs;
  6. To identify the training teachers receive as well as how they individualize practice and work to fully integrate children with disabilities into the classroom; and
  7. To identify how EHS/HS programs work with children with disabilities and their families on transitions to HS or kindergarten.

Project activities include stakeholder engagement, examination and analysis of existing sources of data, creation and fielding of a national survey, as well as interviews with DSCs and related staff in EHS/HS programs, and dissemination of findings.

The project team is led by NORC at the University of Chicago, in partnership with SRI International and consultant, Amanda Schwartz.

The points of contact are Laura Hoard, Allison Walker, and Krystal Bichay-Awadalla.