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Exploring program quality factors that impact child services in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Programs Open Access

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Estimates of the farmworker population are difficult to document, however estimates suggest each year approximately 4.2 million workers and families leave their homes to "follow the crops." Young children, between the ages of birth to 5 are not excluded from the migrant process which imposes both physical and mental stresses on these children. Studies have shown that the dental and overall health status of migrant farmworker children is significantly worse than the national average and represents a public health disparity in need of attention. The present study addresses the following three objectives: (1) examine the characteristics associated with Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs that assure that health services are provided to children; (2) explore the relationship between MSHS program characteristics and program health service outcomes; (3) analyze case studies to provide recommendations to policy makers and MSHS service providers to assist MSHS programs in the provision of health services. For this study, surveys of all MSHS directors were quantitatively analyzed to examine the project aims and ascertain those MSHS programs that could be qualified as high and low performing programs. Qualitative interviews were conducted with health services coordinators in a subset of both high- and low-performing MSHS sites as part of a case study approach. Notes were coded and thematic analysis was conducted. The survey results showed that a significant number of children did not receive mandated dental and medical services, and that variables such as language spoken by staff and age of children are statistically related to health services outcomes. Interview results suggest that staff language skills, staff ability to work with children of varying ages, community collaborations, and having a seasoned health service coordinator are all related to program performance. Findings from this study suggest that MSHS programs could increase the number of children receiving health services by increasing staff who are fluent in languages spoken by MSHS children and families and trained to work with children of varying ages, establishing community collaborations, and working to retain health service coordinators.

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