The Head Start program in Fort George Community Enrichment Center in the Washington Heights section of New York City developed Project Right Start, a family and community-strengthening model that prepares parents to participate actively in community efforts to address substance abuse and related issues.
It was a project under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program, Free to Grow: Head Start Partnerships to Promote Substance-Free Communities.
- Right Start overcame past antagonisms to develop a cooperative relationship with the New York City police departments 34th precinct Community Affairs Division. Over time, parents came to view the police as an important community resource and supported ongoing police efforts to foster neighborhood order and safety.
- Right Start's model of parent education, immigrant support and community action engaged a broad range of Head Start parents.
- An oral and cultural history program, led by consultants, celebrated the heritage of Dominican and Latino families by involving parents and children in special activities designed to increase their cultural knowledge and pride.
- Two weekly women's education and support groups explored parenting skills, disciplining children, family communication, health, domestic violence and other topics.
- An eight-session substance abuse prevention training program helped parents identify personal or family practices and environmental factors that place children at risk for or enhance their resistance to substance abuse.
- The grantee expanded two Community Issues Committees to engage a core group of 25 to 40 parents in a variety of substance abuse prevention projects. One committee focused on health and one on education.
Evaluation Findings: According to the Free to Grow program's evaluators from Mathematica Policy Research:
- While Project Right Start is a promising model for substance abuse prevention, numerous challenges kept the project from being fully implemented or achieving long-term sustainability, including the project's failure to connect parents to civic leadership roles in the community.