Salvation Army Head Start Programs Reach out to Homeless Families

Marquita Cox, M.ED, is the Head Start Program Director for The Salvation Army. She has more than 15 years of experience in childhood education, holds a Master’s Degree, and is pursuing her Doctorate in Early Childhood Education.

The Salvation Army is one of the leading Head Start providers in Chicago, with more than 10 sites in Chicago. Salvation Army Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide early childhood education including nutritional meals and snacks, parenting classes and health screenings. Last year, the Army provided nearly 18,500 child-care days to more than 335 children. Of those children served, 85 percent completed the program either up-to-date or on schedule in terms of key health and mental wellness milestones, according to State of Illinois standards. Head Start programs are provided in a classroom or in the home.

The Salvation Army’s Head Start program also includes outreach and support to homeless families through the Family Outreach Initiative. This program is for families with children aged three to five, and are homeless (whether living in a shelter or with family or friends).

Homeless families are considered to be at a true disadvantage because of their living situation. The relationships that are developed with families and children through home visits build trust and give families the foundation to begin working towards self-reliance.

A Salvation Army staff member meets with the parents and the children where they are living for 90 minutes each week. During the visits, the home visitor helps with the parents develop family goals to move them towards self-sufficiency, which could include finding stable housing, permanent employment, reliable health care and more. The home visitor also plans educational activities based on needs and works with the parents to implement learning activities with the child.

According to a recent study by National Head Start Association, children who participate in Head Start programs see immediate and long-lasting benefits, including better social skills, impulse control and a decrease in aggression and hyperactivity. And children who are homeless receive the greatest benefits from Head Start programs because they have a higher likelihood of graduating from high school and attend at least one year of college.

Families enrolled in all Salvation Army Head Start programs also receive a range of parental and child developmental trainings, referrals for community and educational services, assistance with transition to kindergarten, and support groups.

Visit our Head Start and Early Head Start website for more information on these programs.

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