Key Evaluation Findings & Conclusions: Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine conducted an independent evaluation, tracking changes in family and community risk and protective factors at 14 demonstration sites and 14 matched communities selected for comparison. (The national program office staff disagreed with some findings, contending the evaluation failed to fully identify the program's impact on families and communities.) Findings included:
- There was no consistent evidence of change in family functioning or neighborhood conditions when the 14 Free To Grow sites were compared to the 14 matched sites at the three-year follow-up.
- Analyses that controlled for the risk status of parents/caregivers in the Free To Grow and comparison communities also produced little evidence of impact at the three-year follow-up.
In the final 2009 report, the evaluation team concluded: "The results provide limited support for the concept that family and neighborhood conditions that are likely to affect child development and well-being can be attained through organized change efforts implemented by local Head Start programs."