Home-based program brings hope to displaced mothers

In their role as “primary teacher” homeless mothers help their children grow and learn in a safe environment
The Early Head Start Home-Based Program, launched in April 2010, is one of Head Start’s comprehensive program options designed to meet the needs of low-income pregnant women and families of infants and toddlers through home visits and group socializations.
After two years as a Head Start/Early Head Start provider, the United Way Center for Early Education received funding for eight home-based Early Head Start slots. Consistent with its innovative approach to education, the Center decided to allocate these dollars to serve a hard to reach, high-need population – Miami-Dade’s homeless.     
The program, unique in its kind, filled the slots with eight families selected through a partnership with the Lotus House Women’s Shelter, a resource center and residential facility serving homeless women and infants in the heart of the historic African-American Overtown district.  
Through the partnership between the Center and the Lotus House, 12 families have received an array of individualized services based on each family’s situation. The home-based program’s major goal is to support parents in their role as their child’s “primary teacher” in promoting their overall development and a safe environment in which to learn and grow. Both the parent and educator work collaboratively to develop a curriculum that will establish realistic goals for the infant or toddler each year and help him/her to transition to a Head Start Center-Based program.  
The program is two-fold: weekly year-round 90-minute home visits support parents in educating and nurturing their children, as well as providing services to expecting mothers such as pre-natal care, post-partum depression and a variety of educational experiences; and bi-weekly group socialization to strengthen and support the parents.  Home-based educators also provide additional support to families experiencing multiple stressors, including maternal depression, violence in the home, health complications or other family crises. Beyond emotional support offered by the program, participants receive assistance with basic resources as clothes, food, transportation, strollers, car seats, educational supplies, among others.