Early Childhood

Children & Families

By Linda Jacobson — January 19, 2000 1 min read

Good Reviews: If the customer is always right, then Head Start, the federal preschool program for low-income children, is delivering on its promise to prepare youngsters for school and to make parents active participants in their children’s lives and in the community.

The program has received the highest score of any government agency or private company included on the American Customer Satisfaction Index—and even beat out Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced recently. Head Start received an overall score of 87 for last year, 14 points above the current national score of 73.

On a scale of 100 for parent trust in the program, Head Start received a 94. And 89 percent of those surveyed said they were more satisfied with Head Start than they were two years ago.

“It is gratifying that parents whose children are getting the benefit of Head Start’s early education feel respected, included, and satisfied with this program’s place in their lives,” said Olivia A. Golden, the assistant secretary for children and families in the Health and Human Services Department.

Subsidy Shortage: A lack of high-quality child care in New York City, as well as an insufficient supply of child-care subsidies, is forcing low-income parents to pay as much as half their income on such care and to resort to arrangements that they believe are having a negative impact on their children, says a report from the Children’s Aid Society. The child-welfare agency serves more than 120,000 people in New York City.

Based on interviews with 150 parents on child-care waiting lists in the city, “The Human Cost of Waiting for Child Care: A Study” found that almost half the parents who earned between $6,000 and $12,000 a year were spending between 20 percent and 50 percent of their income on child care.

More than 70 percent were using child-care providers unregulated by state or local agencies.

The report also suggests that the child-care-subsidy system in the city—which is administered by two different agencies—is confusing and aggravates the problem.

The Children’s Aid Society makes these recommendations:

  • Additional funding is needed, from the federal government, the state, and the city, to expand the supply of regulated, high-quality care.
  • A single agency should be in charge of administering child-care subsidies in the city.

—Linda Jacobson ljacobs@epe.org

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A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2000 edition of Education Week

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