In just one day, Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) helped 339 families enroll their preschoolers in the Head Start program and made sure they had all of their health screenings for the upcoming school year. The recruitment and developmental screening fair was the second such event HCHRA hosted this summer. The first was held at Mary C. Jones Head Start Center in June, and the last one was held at Westside Head Start Center near the end of July. HCHRA staff provided information about Head Start and assisted parents with the enrollment process, while providers performed medical, dental, speech, hearing, vision and developmental exams for every Head Start student who needed them.
Choices Dental provided hygiene awareness and made sure students were cavity-free. Mississippi Families for Kids shared information on day treatment centers for 1- to 5-year-olds, adoption, outreach, counseling and more. Assurance Wireless helped eligible families get free cellphone services, if needed. Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center and UMMC UNACARE had their large mobile clinics on-site to conduct wellness exams. Hinds Behavioral Health Services, Habitat for Humanity, Mississippi Smiles, CANOPY Children’s Solutions, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Mississippi Division of Medicaid were also on hand to provide information and services to the attendees.
HCHRA’s organized the event as a proactive measure to assist in the early determination of children who may be in need of support services. Department of Family Opportunities staff member Elizabeth Easterling stated they would initially check to see if children were already on the Head Start waiting list or needed to enroll. Children would then participate in a medical assessment along with a family unit assessment geared to find resources and provide assistance on the family’s individual interests to make sure the family’s needs were met.
A passport was given to each family to streamline the recruitment and screening process. Parents visited each area sequentially, and their passport was marked as each assessment was completed. Sarah Fair attended the event with her daughter, Seara Fair, and her grandson, CJ. Seara Fair, who is the mother of CJ, commented, “It was an easy process, organized and well put together. First, we received a registration card. Then we visited an advisor, went for the developmental screenings, and received a copy of our records. It was a good process.” HCHRA structured the event to make sure that parents had access to every resource and service they needed to enroll their child in Head Start – all in one place.
The fair also included popcorn and cotton candy, train rides, and an activity room where children and parents could bowl, color, or play mini basketball and bean bag toss games while they waited for their screenings. Parent M’Tisha Townsend, while coloring with her daughter Jazmyne, a student at Mary C. Jones Head Start Center, stated, “I came along to help a friend. I like it. It’s exciting.” The train rides doubled as a fun time for the kids, as well as giving parents and grandparents a ride to their cars parked down the street.
For more information concerning Head Start, please visit www.hchra.org