The focus of this final paper is evaluating the appropriateness of early childhood intervention programs that researchers and federally enacted legislation have availed for infants and young children with special needs. The paper provides a critical evaluation of two early intervention programs in line with the standpoint of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (Bacon et al., 2014). The evaluation will take credence of aspects, such as setting, purpose, structure, and the cost of each early intervention program. The programs under evaluation include Head Start and home visiting programs. More often, the assessment process associated with the admission of children and toddlers into early intervention programs is a critical event for families and their children since its outcomes can significantly change the developmental course of a child because of specialized interventions.
Early Intervention Programs for Young Children
There have been concerns over the future of children with special needs – children with disabilities, or children who are at risk for disability and those with challenging behavior. There have been gaps in the desired quality of care and early childhood education for the vulnerable infants and toddler education in the American population (Bagnato et al., 2014). The high number of immigrants that is now part of the American population has necessitated the call for change of approach and design of the early childhood intervention programs. Consequently, issues, such as home language and culture, learning of a second language, and school culture have tremendously increased with the growing immigrant population.
Conducting an evaluation of any early childhood intervention program for correlation to the standpoint of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) promotes the achievement of bet outcomes (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)
. This is because the standpoint derives its content and voice from different views of experts who often contribute from the technical perspective while considering the current social dynamics. The nation recognized NAEYC is the leading organization in advocating high-quality education for infants and toddler population for the early intervention programs so that the society can reap from their future endeavors.
NAEYC’s standpoint highlights three significant challenges in today’s early childhood education; sealing the learning loopholes and enhancing the achievement of all children; creating a high-quality education for preschool and elementary children; and the recognition of the knowledge of the teacher in making decisions that are critical to the effectiveness of education (Bagnato et al., 2014). Therefore, an early childhood intervention program is only appropriate if it thrives in addressing these challenges at the beginning of childhood education that is not popular in the society.
The Head Start Program
There is a significant gap between the educational levels of children from higher economic status families and those from impoverished families. In addition, it provides a complete health, nutrition, and parenting services to children from low economic positions and their families (Green et al., 2014). The intent of the program is reducing the gap in educational development, and level the academic ground for every child to achieve challenging and achievable goals in future lives. The services and resources are redesigned in such a way that it fosters stable family relationship.
In addition, the program enhances both physical and emotional well-being of children. It creates an environment upon which children can develop robust cognitive skills. It is also crucial to note that the program provide a transition phase from preschool to elementary school, thus imposing many developmental challenges (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)
. However, the program addresses these by providing an avenue through which children can interact beyond the family boundaries and adjust appropriately to the classroom circumstances. Eventually, the children from head start schools find it easy to meet the expectations that the school setting avail at the end of the transition period.
The head start is a national program that aims at promoting readiness for school by improving social and cognitive skills development in children. It provides education, health, social services, and parent-community participation in a single program to children of three-five years of age and pregnant women who live below the federal poverty line (Bacon et al., 2014). The program is the product of the declaration of the US administration to eradicate poverty, dubbed, “war on poverty” that saw the government shift its focus on the vulnerable children and their children. Even though the program supports children between 3-5 years, it also supports infants and toddlers as evident by the establishments of parent-child centers in its operations.
Structure and Setting
The structure of head start programs differs according to the needs of the society in which it operates. The program provides for center-based and home-based structure of the study. In the center-based structure, children converge in a particular center from where they enjoy their services of the program (Bacon et al., 2014). Home-based structure requires isolated attendance, necessitating the individual presence as the respective homes of children.
The program provides education that considers the greatest concerns of every child availing a pool of learning experience that enables children to develop in all aspects, such as intellectual, social, and emotional nourishment (Green et al., 2014). The health services include immunizations, identification, and diagnosis of early problems, dental, mental, and dietary services. Parental involvement in this program means that it recognizes parents as policy makers, decision makers, and largely in the planning and implementation of various activities.
In addition, the parents share in classes and workshops in early childhood education and development. Parents act as part of the administration through the decisions that they arrive at in their committees (Green et al., 2014). The program recognizes parents as the first teachers of their children. The social services provided by the program include the community outreach programs that aim at determining the real problems that the community members face in relation to the basic needs of vulnerable children and their families.
In both structures, all head start teachers are required to possess an advanced degree, baccalaureate or child associate credential or state awarded credential (CDA) that is the equivalent of a CDA with preschool teaching experience (Barnett, 2004). The aspect ensures that a teacher in the home-based or center-based program is able to meet the expectations and specific needs of children, and work with their parents and other adults in nurturing their physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development (Barnett, 2004). The program has a curriculum that educators follow at the preschool level for young children.
The head start program costs the federal government approximately $ 8 billion annually. In the financial year 2012/2-13, the appropriations for the federal head start funding stood at $7,278,195,000 for local head start projects and $294,900,000 for support activities, amounting to a total of $7, 573,095,000 in appropriations (Barnett, 2004). The program assists children, families, and expectant women in all the 50 states of the US. Since its inauguration, the program serves over 31 million children birth to age 5 and their families. In the financial year ending 2013, the federal government funded the program to serve almost one million children and pregnant women in centers, family homes, and in family childcare homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities in the entire nation (Barnett, 2004). The federal government is funding up to 80 percent of the program cost with only 20 percent left for the community. The cost-benefit analysis indicates that the head start program is cost-ineffective in the short-run, and that the program is most likely to reap more benefits than costs involved in future.
The Home-Visiting Program
This program is among the several strategies pinned to promote the well-being of infants and children. It concerns maternal, newborn, and early juvenile health, safety, child development, and healthy parent-child relationships. The program is increasingly becoming a popular strategy for the delivery of services to vulnerable families. Notably, service delivery within the family context seems to be productive and valuable, especially for high-risk families with infants and children of 0-5 years.
Evaluations of the outcomes of home visiting indicate the following; its impact on reducing child abuse and neglect is thin due to different definitions, low reporting levels, and impracticality of substantiation (Green et al., 2014). However, there is strong evidence that the program thwarts harsh parenting behaviors that involve acts, such as pinching among other harsh parenting behaviors. It improves health and safety of the child since the doctor is able to provide immunizations, dental visits, and other forms of medical care hence contributing to the overall quality of health care of the child. It also improves the quality of the home environment since it focuses on the child domain rather than on the child’s outcomes.
In addition, parents become more reactive and sensitive as home visiting exposes more about their children. Finally, the program promotes the development of cognitive skills in children, though some research indicates otherwise. This is because the program on rare occasions provides services directly to the children (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)
. Home visiting program encourages improved readiness of children for elementary schools as a child acquires earlier language development and literacy skills. The program identified sixteen models that included child FIRST, early head start, family check-up, healthy steps, family spirit among others in its id to attain the criteria for a model based on evidence.
Purpose of home-vising program
The purpose of home visits is to promote best practices for infants and toddler care provision. It permits the educators to understand the home environment of a child better, thereby helping in the development of strong relationships with the families (Klein & Knitzer, 2006). It allows for sharing of tools and strategies that aids families in understanding the dynamics of child development. Home visiting emphasizes the role of parenting as the first teaching tool and helps the identification of various ways in which a family culture can be incorporated into the childcare setting (Bacon et al., 2014). The educators are able to give insights into the broader perceptions they may have on the children while it makes parents discover more about their children.
Structure and Setting
The program develops around strong evidence-based as its model. The model provides a comprehensive perspective on parenting, education, and family support coupled with construction of protective factors, especially for high-risk families and their children (Bacon et al., 2014). The program adopts an approach that focuses on the interaction between a child and parent, a parenting process that is development oriented, and well-being of the family (Klein & Knitzer, 2006). Nevertheless, the program concentrates on strengths, capabilities, skills, and piling protective factors in the family. The program identifies parents as teachers of their children. It has a newly revised curriculum that stresses on the need for evidence-based practices in the process of providing services to vulnerable groups. Furthermore, the educators-parents as teachers have set qualifications to meet before they can join the program.
Different models that the program often employs cost-benefit analysis are challenging. However, the RAND corporation results (2005) generated $ 2.24 for every dollar injected into the program (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)
. The effectiveness and appropriateness of any program depend on the outcomes of its cost-benefit analyzes. Even though few studies have been conducted on the program, their findings have revealed that the benefits of home-visiting program outweigh its costs. The cost of home visiting was about $ 6000 per family on average inclusive of labor and material costs.
The settings of both programs are appropriate in that they enable both parents and educators to interact with children and their parents. For instance, head start program allows for flexible settings making it easy for families to make choices depending on the nature of their needs. Parent participation in this program is critical since parents feel part of the program and are able to express their thought in the program management (NAEYC, 2009). On the other hand, home visiting is focusing on the child-parent interactions. As parents interact with their children, the learning becomes easier, and parents and other educators find new ways of shaping the behavior of children.
Head start program ensures quality teaching and learning by using a curriculum whose central concern is the well-being of the child (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002)
. Parents and staff of early head start both works on the strategies of how they can work together and set goals for the infants and toddlers, and the outcome depends on how flexible the implementers are in their work. The staff must understand and respect the individual differences that exist in different families and come out with a comprehensive plan that satisfies the interest of every child and family (NAEYC, 2009). The involvement of parents and staff in creating a curriculum is a great step to more significant achievements as the program considers real needs and expectations of children birth to age 3.
The evidence-based curriculum adopted for home visiting program is a success. It emphasizes empowering parents to the primary pillars of the development of their child. The program has specialized strategies for handling highly stressed families to enable them nurture their infants and children to achieve learning and development of their children (Barnett, 2004). The modules aim at helping parents to identify the dreams and values of their children and strive to make them. It is not concerned with the intellectual capability of the child, but also focuses on respect and self-confidence that counts later life (Klein & Knitzer, 2006). In addition, the modules enhance parental empathy development so that parents can be sensitive enough to respond to the acts that damage the inner person of a child, such as child abuse and neglect. The primary goal of strengthening parenting skills is an achievement that complements the success of other early intervention programs.
Both curricula consider the critical areas of knowledge in the decision-making process. They involve teachers with knowledge regarding child development and learning, and understand characteristics relating to each age bracket thus making general predictions about child experiences possible (Klein & Knitzer, 2006). The programs in one way or the other involve parents in the program. This aspect enables the recognition that each child is unique and must be treated as such and therefore teachers, and both parents-teachers and practitioners are able to know the child better and respond to the individual differences (Maeroff, 2006). The programs consider the cultural contexts of children in terms of values, expectations, behavior, and language. The understanding of these aspects of life of every child enhances the quality of learning and teaching. The program emphasizes considerations and respect for cultures of different communities.
Both programs conform to the principles of child development and learning. It is important noting that developmentally appropriate practice refers to what one knows from theory and literature about the development and learning in children. Therefore, the programs focus on all domains of development, that is, physical, social, emotional, and cognitive (NAEYC, 2009). Children are social beings and therefore offering them quality teaching and learning means considering all aspects as envisaged in the programs. The programs emulate the sequential documented aspects of learning and development and recognize that the solution is building abilities, knowledge, and skills of the ones that a child has already acquired. The programs adopt a flexible approach to high-risk children and their families (Maeroff, 2006). Every child has a different rate of learning necessitating the flexibility in handling the learning of children.
There is a correlation between the objectives of the programs and the guidelines for the developmentally appropriate practice. For instance, the practitioners establish a considerate community of learners that ultimately support all children to attain learning and development in all domains. The teaching is geared towards enhancing learning and development by promoting early child interactions and parental relationships that are critical determinants of learning and development. The programs involve planning of the curriculum that considers knowledge, skills, abilities, and infant understanding that help achieve expectations and needs among other important goals (Maeroff, 2006). The various skills and abilities of a child are assessed in a manner designed by the curricula. Lastly, the programs recognize family relationships in the achievement of their goals and objectives.
In conclusion, the early intervention programs surpass the threshold set by the NAEYC’s standpoint on developmentally appropriate practice. The purpose of the programs inclines toward reducing the learning disparities between children from poor and rich families by creating opportunities for all children (NAEYC, 2009). The settings conform to particular needs of the society, thereby indicating the willingness of a program that considers the cultural contexts and the impact of family relationships in learning and development of a child. The curricula base of the well-being of children (NAEYC, 2009). The structures are adaptive and respond to the specific needs of every child in the program. Even though costs of the programs accumulate very fast, it is evident that in the end, the benefits will exceed the costs, passing the cost-benefit test. Finally, the inclusion of parental input in the programs is essential in the overall outcomes regarding the achievement of child learning and development. The early intervention programs are appropriate in curriculum and applications in terms of purpose, setting, structure, and cost.
Bacon, E. C., Dufek, S., Schreibman, L., Stahmer, A. C., Pierce, K., & Courchesne, E. (2014). Measuring Outcome in an Early Intervention Program for Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Use of a Curriculum-Based Assessment. Autism research and treatment, 2014.
Bagnato, S. J., Goins, D. D., Pretti-Frontczak, K., & Neisworth, J. T. (2014). Authentic Assessment as “Best Practice” for Early Childhood Intervention: National Consumer Social Validity Research. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 0271121414523652.
Barnett, W.S. (2004). Better teachers, better preschools: Student achievement linked to teacher qualifications. Preschool Policy Matters 2: 2–7. Online: nieer.org/docs/?DocID=62.
Green, B. L., Ayoub, C., Bartlett, J. D., Von Ende, A., Furrer, C., Chazan-Cohen, R. … & Klevens, J. (2014). The effect of Early Head Start on child welfare system involvement: A first look at longitudinal child maltreatment outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 42, 127-135.
Klein, L.G., & J. Knitzer. (2006). Effective preschool curricula and teaching strategies. Pathways to Early School Success, Issue Brief No. 2. New York: Columbia University, National Center for Children in Poverty.
Maeroff, G.I. 2006. Building blocks: Making children successful in the early years of school. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; Ritchie, S., K. Maxwell, & R.M. Clifford. 2007. FirstSchool: A new vision for education. In School readiness and the transition to kindergarten in the era of accountability, eds. R.C. Pianta, M.J. Cox, & K.L. Snow, 85–96. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
NAEYC & NAECS/SDE (National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education). (2002). Early learning standards: Creating the conditions for success. Joint standpoint.
NAEYC. (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.