Orange County Head Start, Inc. strives to create a rich environment where the child and family needs are addressed and are supportive of family well-being. Our comprehensive support services are offered to all children and families in our Head Start programs.
These services include dental and medical health, mental health, nutrition, education, family services, and supporting children and families with special needs.
At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) Parent, Family, and Community Engagement is a crucial part of the integrated support services provided to children and families. Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) is dedicated to recognizing parents as their children’s primary teachers and nurturers and implements intentional strategies to engage parents in their children’s learning and development utilizing a family engagement approach. Family engagement is an interactive process through which program staff and families build authentic, positive, and goal-oriented relationships. This process supports mutual respect between families and staff, with a focus on equity, inclusiveness, and cultural and linguistic responsiveness. Family engagement builds strong partnerships between parents and staff as they work together toward goals that families choose for themselves and their children. Parents are also encouraged to share their own experiences, knowledge, and expertise with the program to support the agency’s goals and to contribute to the continuous improvement of program practices and quality.
Community engagement at At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) refers to the network of positive, intentional, and mutually beneficial relationships between At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) staff, families, and community agencies that provide ongoing support and resources tailored to the needs of children, families, and the local community. At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) staff collaborate with families, community members, and local agencies to identify common goals, align resources, and share data to support effective partnerships and continuous improvement. Community agencies play a powerful role in assisting At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) families as they make progress toward their goals and life dreams, including educational and career advancement, economic mobility, and maintaining the health and well-being of the entire family.
At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) Family Engagement Advocates work closely with families through the development of a Family Success Plan and goal-setting process focusing on family strengths and needs. The Family Engagement Advocates serve as a bridge for families to access support through comprehensive internal and community services. Families are also encouraged to participate in a variety of programs and educational opportunities that promote and strengthen parenting, advocacy, and leadership skills. Family engagement opportunities at At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) include parent participation in volunteer programs, learning activities in the home, parenting workshops and conferences, father engagement activities, school readiness preparation, community involvement, and leadership experiences including Parent Committee meetings, and the OCHS Policy Council where parents support the agency’s decision-making process.
Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) recognizes the vital role healthy meals, daily physical activity, and parent nutrition education play in supporting the health and well-being of children and families. Identifying children’s nutritional needs and assisting families in addressing nutritional issues are critical to children’s development. Good nutrition and movement activities are vital components of school readiness and learning. In collaboration with the child’s caregiver, staff completes a nutrition assessment for each child to identify any nutritional risks such as being underweight or overweight, having anemia, or requiring food modifications at mealtime. A Registered Dietician provides one-on-one nutrition consultations with all families interested in this service as well as a variety of nutrition education opportunities to empower parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to make healthy, nutritious choices for their families. The classroom and home base curricula also incorporate nutrition activities and opportunities for physical activity throughout the day to help establish and promote positive relationships with food, a love of movement, and lifelong healthy habits. Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) also works in coordination with community partners to offer on-site food distributions for families in need.
Throughout the school day, children are served fresh, healthy, nutritious meals. Breakfast, lunch, and snack meet or exceed nutritional standards by providing foods that have appropriate nutrient and calorie levels for all ages being served, including children with special dietary needs and disabilities. Meals are served family style with a variety of foods served which take into consideration cultural and ethnic preferences and accommodate the feeding requirements of children with food allergies and special diets to ensure all children can safely participate in positive family-style dining experiences while at school.
The health and safety of children are our highest priorities at Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS). A vigorous system of health and safety practices is maintained and enforced across the program to ensure children are kept safe at all times. Staff receives comprehensive training in maintaining a clean, safe, developmentally appropriate, and hazard-free center environment; implementation of active supervision practices; emergency disaster procedures; and providing nurturing care of children at all times. All centers are inspected and licensed by the State of California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Department and comply with all state and local fire and health regulations.
Recognizing health as a foundation of school readiness, Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) collaborates with parents as partners in the health and well-being of their children in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner. Upon entering the program, staff works with families to ensure all children have a medical and dental home, health insurance, and ongoing health and dental care. Staff work in coordination with parents and medical providers to ensure that all children are up-to-date on immunizations and appropriate preventive and primary health care, including screenings for vision, hearing, developmental and behavioral concerns, medical and dental examinations, and medical and dental treatment as needed. Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) also works collaboratively with community partners to conveniently bring mobile health services on-site when possible, including oral health and vision services.
Young children vary in their skills, knowledge, backgrounds, and abilities. Through effective quality teaching practices, Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) individualizes for children to enable each child to access, participate and thrive in a positive, healthy learning environment. Individualized learning ensures children with disabilities, including but not limited to those who are eligible for services under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and their families receive all applicable program services delivered in the least restrictive possible environment and that they fully participate in all program activities.
Head Start and Early Head Start programs are mandated to ensure that at least 10% of the program’s funded enrollment is filled by children eligible for services under IDEA through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS) partners with school district special education programs and the Regional Center of Orange County to identify children who need, and qualify, for these services. The teaching staff works with children and families to incorporate IFSP and IEP goals into the individualized learning environment to support children in achieving the most positive outcomes possible.
At Orange County Head Start, Inc. (OCHS), support is also provided for parents, children, and staff through Inclusion Support Facilitators (ISF). The ISF works closely with parents and staff to establish needed classroom modifications, schedule changes, materials and equipment, training, and in-classroom support to assist in implementing each child’s unique IEP or IFSP goals and needs. In-center support services (e.g., behavior therapy, speech therapy, etc.) from outside agencies also allow children to receive the support services they need in a natural setting.