Applications, eligibility and data entry, Oh My!
This week we concluded the application days for Head Start in Buncombe and Madison Counties. The applications are starting to pile up for the fall. Even though the Family Service Associates spend a lot of time getting the word out about the application days, the reality is a family can apply whenever they want by walking into the office. It has been fun to watch the different families come to apply and hear how they found out about Head Start. A number of them received the flyers in their mailboxes, but many also heard about the opportunity through government assistance programs or friends who had children in Head Start.
The processed applications are piling up!
They are divided by preferred school.
Once an application is processed, there is a formula that allocates points to help prioritize which students are accepted. For example, a 4-year old receives more points than a 3-year old because they would only be eligible for one year of Head Start while a 3-year old is eligible for two years. As I watch the points accumulate, the social worker in me wonders how certain criteria are allocated more points than others. Somehow, some aspects of families that seemingly have fewer advantages over the long run don’t necessarily get more points for those disadvantages. For example, a family that has access to childcare through family members or friend does not have an advantage over a family that has no local network. People do better off when they have social support, but this is not accounted for in the application. There are a number of things like this that could be included in the eligibility point allocation, but how does one choose what they want to prioritize?
Interestingly, each center creates their own eligibility guidelines. The eligibility priorities are pulled from the need determined by a community assessment. This is a great way to tailor the program to the community, but matching those needs with an evidence-based model seems to be the conflict the organization faces in trying to create the most equitable process possible.