Liaison with Partnership for Community Action (PCA) to support refugee families whose children are enrolled in PCA’s Head Start early childhood education program.

Liaison with Partnership for Community Action (PCA) to support refugee families whose children are enrolled in PCA’s Head Start early childhood education program.

Refugee Family Services refers refugee families to Head Start, and hires Somali and Sudanese childcare workers to work in the Head Start program. An RFS family advocate works with the referred refugee families, to help them understand the Head Start program, to teach families about child development, and to help with logistics. Refugee children are mainstreamed with other Head Start students.
This Liaison program is an outgrowth of work by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to foster collaboration between agencies serving refugees and other newcomers, and agencies not providing specialized services to refugees.

State(s):
Georgia

Administering Organization:
Refugee Family Services, Inc. (RFS) (formerly Newcomers' Network)

Program Objectives:
The Liaison program partners Refugee Family Services with the local Head Start program. Part of the goal of the program is to bring refugee parents together with other Head Start parents.

Resource Materials:
The program uses cultural awareness activities, videos from the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and parenting class materials.

Groups Served by Program:
The local Head Start program initially took 12 Sudanese and 12 Somali children, 3-4 years old. The program has since expanded to serve a multi-ethnic group of over 100 children.

Program Funding:
Funding for this Liaison program is from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The involvement of Head Start - an established, proven program - facilitated the funding. RFS notes that the program could benefit from increased funding for additional Family Advocates, to enroll more children and help more refugee families access mainstream early childhood education services.

Program Staffing and Training:
The Liaison program has one full-time Family Advocate. The entire Refugee Family Services staff went to Head Start and conducted cultural sensitivity training for about 180 Head Start employees, including bus drivers, cooks and administrators. The entire Refugee Family Services staff went to Head Start and conducted cultural sensitivity training for about 180 Head Start employees, including bus drivers, cooks and administrators.

Program Evaluation:
RFS has found this Liaison program to be a good partnership in its first year. The program's goal was to enroll 20 refugee children; over 100 have been enrolled to date. Refugee childcare workers remain on the job. Parents are participating well, according to RFS. Getting and retaining refugee childcare workers, RFS finds, is the most difficult part of the program. Other challenges include parents not having the children at the bus stop on time, parents not picking the children up on time, and families moving without notifying the program or Head Start. RFS notes that the Family Advocate has met with Head Start officials and has resolved almost all of these issues.

Program Outcomes:
Over 100 refugee children have been enrolled to date. Refugee childcare workers remain on the job. Parents are participating well.

Program Contact:
Peter Epstein pepstein@refugeefamilyservices.org http://www.refugeefamilyservices.org/

Program Dates:
This program began in September 2002; it is still operating.

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