The Effect of Home Based Head Start on the Language Development of Homeless Children
Meinholz, Monica Marie
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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Homelessness in the United States is a growing problem. One of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population is young children. This study examined the effect of a weekly home visiting program (Head Start or Early Head Start) using the Parents as Teachers Curriculum on children’s language development. Children and families participated in 19 weeks of this home visiting program conducted by CAP Services, Inc. After 11 and 19 weeks of receiving home visits, the home visitors rated the children using widely held expectations in four developmental objectives from the Teaching Strategies Gold assessment tool. These areas include: language comprehension, following directions, engaging in conversation, and using social rules of language. Widely held expectations are defined as a range of scores based on research that are typical for most children within an age group. The hypothesis was: homeless children, with the use of the Head Start or Early Head Start Home Based program, implementing the Parents as Teachers Curriculum, will perform as well as their housed peers on the Teaching Strategies Gold assessment system in the four language developmental objectives. No statistical significance was found between the group of homeless and non-homeless children in any of the objectives during the designated time periods which is consistent with the hypothesis. There was statistical significance in the performance of homeless children from fall to winter in the areas of language comprehension, following directions, and engaging in conversations. The percentage of children meeting the widely held expectations increased in all of the objectives, which indicates program effectiveness. More research is needed to determine if a program included rating periods more than eight weeks apart would make more of an impact on the children’s development. This would allow the family to be provided with additional home visits, which would increase the exposure the children have to the curriculum. This would be difficult, however, due the transient nature of the homeless population. Another research approach would be to examine developmental objectives other than language for homeless children, or a population of children that is not low income or homeless to determine if the children are making gains due to the program or as a result of natural maturation and to compare the gains made by children with higher socioeconomic status.