Partnering with Head Start and Early Childhood Programs

Many families participating in early childhood programs are affected by domestic violence. A 2002 study using a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs found that 17 percent of enrolled children were exposed to domestic violence. We know that these rates are likely higher in reality. Exposure to violence and other traumatic events can cause social, emotional and behavioral difficulties and can impede learning. Early childhood providers and staff may see early indications of children’s stress or trauma through thPicture1e behavior of young children in their care programs or through their parent engagement work.  Relationships with caring and supportive adults provide a protective resource for parents and children who have experienced domestic violence. Child care providers, Head Start directors, teachers and family services staff are well positioned to implement universal violence prevention strategies, support children during times of stress, provide information and referrals to parents, and develop partnerships with domestic violence related experts and programs.

Collaboration Benefits:

  • Increasing access to safe and confidential resources for early childhood families experiencing domestic violence
  • Increasing the number of early childhood specialists who are knowledgeable about DV and community based resources, i.e. shelter, home visitation
  • Increasing the number of early childhood providers who understand the impact of DV on children and have the skills to support children’s healing and resiliency and provide universal education for parents on CEV, protective factors, etc.
  • Creating a continuum of trauma informed child serving agencies


  • Do we intentionally build and sustain relationships and partnerships with staff from other agencies and systems that support young children?
  • Do the Head Start and Early Childhood providers know about our program and what services we offer?
  •  What kinds of activities, coordination or collaboration do you engage in with early childhood providers, including day care providers, and home visitation programs?
  • Are we connected with programs that support the educational needs of our families?
  • Do we understand various perspectives and work processes and acknowledge the experience and skills of staffs in early child care settings?
  • Do we have an established relationship with Head Start and Early childhood programs which allows cross training and information sharing agreements?
  • Do we have established connections and referral protocols with early childhood programs that will support early identification of children and families experiencing domestic violence and protocols to support programs in a crises situation?

Strategies for Working Together:

  • Contracting with Head Start or early childhood programs to provide training and TA
  • Offering early childhood programs parent engagement workshops, staff training, present at early childhood conferences or regional meetings.
  •  Establishing an MOU between domestic violence coalitions, local domestic violence programs, and early childhood programs with regards to referrals, case management, information sharing, and cross training.
  • Developing policies and procedures for identifying and responding to domestic violence within families and staff in a safe and supportive manner.
  • Creating formalized partnerships with early childhood programs
  • Training early childhood program staff, administrators and parent leaders with the information they need to engage families, handle mandatory reporting requirements, identify and prevent vicarious trauma, and implement culturally relevant responses.
  • Developing and disseminating best practices, resources, and support for programs to implement universal prevention activities and to effectively intervene.

Process Considerations:

  • Get to know each other!
  • What do you have in common? Commons desired outcomes? Goals?
  • What are the goals of the collaboration?
  • How can we better understand each other’s language?
  • What are the boundaries of our collaboration?
  • The more you get to know your partner, the better the relationship.