Gulf Coast Community Action Agency
The Head Start program provides education, health, nutrition, and social development activities for 1,268 three and four year old children and their parents from low- income households through seven sites in Harrison County. Gulf Coast Community Action Agency, Inc. Head Start ensures partnerships between families, staff, communities and schools.
For additional questions about our Head Start program, Dr. Barbara Coatney, Executive Director.
Head Start Mission
The mission of the Head Start Program is to promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of low-income children through the provision of health, educational, nutritional, social and other services that are determined to be necessary based on family needs assessments.
Parental Involvement is integral to the success of any Head Start program. Head Start is designed to foster the parent’s role as the principal influence on the child’s development and as the child’s primary educator, nurturer, and advocate.
Our programs work closely with parents to develop and utilize parents’ individual strengths in order to meet personal and family goals. Parents are encouraged to become involved in policy and program decisions that respond to their needs and interests.
Head Start’s learning experiences encourage cognitive, emotional, social and motor development through an integrated program that provides each child with opportunities to experience optimal success. The education component incorporates the parent involvement, nutrition, and health components as well. The learning program must incorporate the community’s ethnic and cultural characteristics among its staff and within the curriculum. Our program uses the Creative Curriculum for its instructional guide and we use the Battelle Developmental Inventory (BDI-II) as its assessment tool. The BDI-II is also utilized with our five Local Education Agencies(school districts).
This component of Head Start is designed to help families build on their own strengths and use their own resources to resolve issues facing them. Head Start staff help families assess their needs, provide information about available community resources, make referrals and facilitate access to appropriate services, and assist in community outreach and crisis intervention.
Children with Disabilities
At least 10% of Head Start enrollment opportunities must be reserved for children with professionally diagnosed disabilities requiring special services. These children and their families receive the full range of Head Start services in a mainstream setting.
Head Start emphasizes the importance of prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of health problems. Head Start provides every child with a comprehensive health program, including medical, dental, mental health and nutrition services. Families are also educated and encouraged on the importance of establishing a medical home.
Mental Health Services
Head Start recognizes the importance of providing mental health and psychological services to children in order to encourage healthy emotional and social development. Mental Health services are available to every child, family, and/or staff. This professional provides mental health training to staff and parents, promotes awareness of the need for early attention to the special mental health problems of children. Our Mental Health consultant, Dr. Oscar Barbarin, is a licensed psychologist.
In the Head Start program children are served a minimum of two hot meals and one snack each day. This food must provide at least one third of their daily nutritional needs. The Nutrition Specialist provides education to teach parents how to select healthy foods and prepare well-balanced meals. Every month a menu and nutrition newsletter is distributed to all families. A Registered Dietician consultant supports our program.