Seasons of Growth, Years of Change
The Migrant/Seasonal Head Start program has provided childcare, social services, and parent workshops for nearly two decades. In 2001, their program size doubled and they now serve infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Many of their new teachers and childcare providers are former fieldworkers: teaching is a new career and fulfillment of a lifelong dream for many.
In 2007, there was a modest expansion of the Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start program in Watsonville. A directly operated program now serves 135 children cared for 12 hours a day in 20 family child care homes. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education provides health, nutrition, and social services plus monthly parent workshops in a partnership with Santa Cruz County Parents Association, Inc.
Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start is a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the County Offices of Education of Stanislaus, Merced and Santa Cruz, that together with the Parent Policy Council governs the program.
The Central California Migrant/Seasonal Head Start Grantee based in Modesto reviews the programs in Watsonville to ensure the implementation of “best practices” and the Head Start Performance Standards. Monthly workshops and meetings are organized for both providers and parents on literacy, school readiness, bilingualism, and also basics such as nutrition, dental care, and disaster preparedness.
A Unique Program
Over half of Migrant/Seasonal Head Start children are taught and cared for in family childcare homes. Recently, the Federal Monitoring team made special mention of the creativity and language skills of the family childcare providers – a unique and popular setting for Migrant/Seasonal Head Start children in our county. This year the Federal Review team identified the family childcare homes environment as one of the strengths of the program.
A current challenge to our program is how to best support the acquisition of English among children who spend most of their day playing with other monolingual children.
The Grantee has developed a position statement, identified best strategies and collected resources to help teachers, providers and parents to tackle this issue. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has collected and disseminated songs, rhymes, games, books, and a list of easy phrases in English to support our youngest English language learners to naturally acquire English.
The focus is on literacy!
Close to 700 Migrant/Seasonal Head Start children in Watsonville have benefited from creative collaborations with our local libraries. Through First 5 grants, Watsonville Library provides onsite trainings for our preschool teachers. The Santa Cruz Library’s “Read to Me” program has distributed literacy kits and one-on-one support to many of the family child care providers who care for migrant children.
An SCCOE-sponsored workshop brought Migrant/Seasonal Head Start parents together to learn about the benefits of talking and reading to very young children. They made inexpensive books to take home to their families.
The Federal Government has identified 13 educational indicators for all Head Start preschoolers. Five indicators focus on language and vocabulary, and seven focuses on developing an awareness of the alphabet, books, and print. The 13th indicator focuses on number concepts. Migrant/Seasonal Head Start is working closely with the Cabrillo College Early Childhood Department to specifically train teachers in observation and assessment skills.
One third of local family childcare providers who contract with Migrant/Seasonal Head Start (PVUSD) have earned Accreditation status from the National Family Child Care Association (NAFCC). This stamp of approval reflects the excellent quality of environment and childcare offered by many of the Latina providers of our county.
National Accreditation is a two year process that includes trainings, observations, provider interviews, parent surveys and a final Validator visit to evaluate eligibility to be accredited.
Many of these same providers participated in a national Pilot Study in 1998 to help develop the NAFCC’s new Accreditation Standards. Congratulations to all Accredited Providers!
Children’s Advocate Article
The March/April issue of “Children’s Advocate,” a respected state-wide newsmagazine published in Oakland by Action Alliance for Children, contains an article highlighting vivid descriptions of family child care providers in Pajaro Valley. The article accurately portrays the benefits and the challenges of implementing the Head Start Performance Standards in family childcare settings. The article features the Watsonville family childcare providers who teach and care for half of the 700 babies and preschoolers of the Migrant/Seasonal Head Start program.
Recent articles about Migrant/Seasonal Head Start:
Read a Metro Santa Cruz article entitled Faith of Their Fathers, by Jessica Lyons, published July 26, 2000. The article is about education being the key for children of migrant workers leaving the fields.
For more information, or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Migrant/Seasonal Head Start Staff:
Maria Castro, Manager, (831) 466-5851
Brenda Ibarra, Administrative Secretary, (831) 466-5850
Sonia Cervantes, Specialist, (831) 466-5852
Maria Rosario Navarro, Specialist, (831) 466-5853
Patricia Muñoz, Specialist, (831) 466-5854.