American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start (AI/AN) programs serve 21,049 children and families in the lower 48 United States and Alaska and are part of Head Start Region XI which includes 152 Head Start programs operated by federally-recognized AI/AN tribes. Region XI Head Start programs serve over 21,000 children and their families – this includes just over half of all AI/AN children in Head Start and about 13% non-AIAN children and families. The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) provides a wealth of nationally-representative information about the needs of Head Start children and families, however, since its inception in 1997, FACES had never included Region XI programs. As a result, Region XI programs are without the nationally-representative and rich descriptive data that FACES provides and that can serve as an important basis for Head Start practice and policy decisions. The critical need for nationally-representative data for Region XI has long been known to tribal Head Start programs, researchers, and federal partners alike. However, owing to tribal concerns about research, the unique protocols for research involving sovereign tribal nations, and the paucity of measures and methods needed for the kinds of culturally- and scientifically-grounded research that tribal nations rightfully demand, tribal Head Start programs continued to be excluded.
The TRC has been central in addressing this gap. The TRC has led the way in bringing together key stakeholders to plan for a study of tribal Head Start that is national in scope, adheres to tribal protocols for research, and that honors the unique cultural and community contexts in which tribal Head Start programs operate. In December 2013, the AI/AN FACES Workgroup was formed and included tribal Head Start directors, researchers, and federal staff from the Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start and Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. Since that time, the AI/AN FACES Workgroup has met in person at least twice per year and by phone 1-4 times per month to collaboratively design the first national study of tribal Head Start programs, families, and children. To ensure that tribal stakeholders beyond the Workgroup itself had opportunities to weigh in on study priorities, the Workgroup sought feedback from tribal leaders participating in all Office of Head Start Tribal Consultations between March and October 2014, delivered national webinars to broad audiences of tribal early childhood stakeholders, presented to the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) in December 2014, and presented regularly to the Board of Directors of the the National Indian Head Start Directors Association.
In the fall of 2015, 21 randomly selected Region XI Head Start programs agreed to participate in the study with full tribal approval according to each program’s tribal community’s research review and approval protocols. Data from over 800 children and families were gathered in the fall of 2015 and again in the spring of 2016, allowing for the assessment of children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth over the course of one Head Start year. The first findings from this unprecedented study will be presented this summer at the ACF National Research Conference on Early Childhood on Wednesday July 13th in a session entitled “A First Look at the Children and Families Served by Tribal Head Start Programs: Representative Data to Inform Policy,” with subsequent webinars to increase dissemination reach, especially to tribal Head Start programs and tribal leaders nationwide. Prior to sharing first findings, study updates will be provided in a plenary session of the National Indian Head Start Directors Association (NIHSDA) annual training conference June 6-9, 2016 in Washington DC, and to participants in the ACF Native Grantee Meeting on June 22nd and 23rd in Marksville, LA in a workshop entitled, “The American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start FACES Study: A Tribal, Research, and Federal Partnership for the First National Study of Region XI Head Start Children, Families, and Programs.” The AI/AN FACES Workgroup has been instrumental in the success of the study to date, and will continue to be central as data analysis and dissemination of the findings proceed.
To learn more about AI/AN FACES, please visit the AI/AN FACES page
at the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation website.