The framework of the Early Head Start program includes four cornerstones, plus three other areas of importance - Administration/Management, Continuous Improvement, and Children with Disabilities.

Child Development

Programs must support the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language development of each child. Parenting education and the support of a positive parent-child relationship are critical to this cornerstone. The services that programs must provide directly or through referral include:

· Early education services in a range of developmentally appropriate settings;

· Home-visits, especially for families with newborns;

· Parent education and parent-child activities;

· Comprehensive health and mental health services; and

· High quality child care services, provided directly or in collaboration with community child care providers.

Family Development Programs must seek to empower families by developing goals for themselves and their children. Staff and parents develop individualized family development plans that focus on the child's developmental needs and the family's social and economic needs. Families that are involved in other programs requiring a family service plan will receive a single coordinated plan so that they experience a seamless system of services. The services that programs must provide directly or through referral include:

· Child development information;

· Comprehensive health and mental health services, including smoking cessation and substance abuse treatment;

· Adult education, literacy, and job skills training to facilitate family self-sufficiency;

· Assistance in obtaining income support, safe housing, or emergency cash; and

· Transportation to program services.

Community Building Programs are expected to conduct an assessment of community resources so that they may build a comprehensive network of services and supports for pregnant women and families with young children. The goal of these collaborative relationships is to increase family access to community supports, make the most efficient use of limited resources, and effect system-wide changes to improve the service delivery system for all families in the community.

Staff Development

The success of the Early Head Start program rests largely on the quality of the staff. Staff members must have the capacity to develop caring, supportive relationships with both children and families. On-going training, supervision, and mentoring will encompass an inter-disciplinary approach and emphasize relationship-building. Staff development will be grounded in established "best practices" in the areas of child development, family development, and community building.

Administration-

Management:

Early Head Start programs will utilize administration and management practices which uphold the nine principles and four cornerstones set forth in the Early Head Start initiative. An interdisciplinary approach will ensure that all staff are cross-trained in the areas of child development, family development, and community building. Staff supervision, with opportunities for feedback and reflection, will emphasize relationship-building as the foundation for interactions between children, families, and staff members.

Continuous

Improvement

Training, monitoring, research, and evaluation enable Early Head Start programs to better meet the needs of young children and families. On-going training and technical assistance is provided by the Infant/Family Network and the EHS NRC.

Children with

Disabilities

Early Head Start programs will have the responsibility to coordinate with programs providing services in accordance with Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Children with disabilities will be fully included in program activities.

Source: Early Head Start National Resource Center