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Mel Gravely

Head Start families face many issues

Families are faced with many challenges today: The decline of the economy, unemployment, inflation, and the high divorce rate are probably among the most serious. Families with children in the Head Start program face even more challenges. They are typically low-income, and many are single-parent families. The program has also seen an increase in the number of immigrant families with children.

According to Child Trends Data Bank, children living in areas with a high concentration of child poverty are more likely to participate in a Head Start program than children who live in more affluent areas.

What are the top 3 Head Start issues for families?

One of the recent discussions in my LinkedIn group revolved around the issues that families with children in Head Start face. One of the group members posed the question, “What are the top three issues for families whose children are served by the Head Start program? There were a variety of responses to the question (in no particular order):

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Spiritual home
  • Finances
  • Children’s future
  • Time
  • Fear
  • Empowerment (of parents & children)
  • Provisions (how to acquire & maintain)
  • Education
  • Language barriers

Someone brought up the point that the issues might be community-specific — that is, lack of transportation; maybe inadequate housing, or substance abuse.

I suggested that the top three might be poverty, fear, and unemployment. But after thinking about this it occurred to me that  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs comes into play here. If the basic needs — water, food, sleep, etc. — aren’t met, it really doesn’t matter what the other issues are.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

For example if a child’s basic nutritional needs aren’t being met, fear or language barriers aren’t important issues. If the family is homeless and the security needs aren’t being met, the children’s future, for the moment, is not as important.

So in reality, the biggest issues facing families with children in the Head Start program vary by family, depending on where they fall in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Every family is different, and it’s up to Head Start managers and staff to identify where that family falls in the hierarchy.

I would like to hear your opinion. What do you think? What other critical issues do families with children in the Head Start program face? Is Maslow’s Hierarchy important in identifying family issues? Post your comments below.



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