Neighborhood Family Councils Give Children - and Their Parents - a Head Start in Colorado Springs

From 1994 to 1999, the Community Partnership for Child Development in Colorado Springs, Colo., planned and implemented a Free to Grow project under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program, Free to Grow: Head Start Partnerships to Promote Substance-Free Communities.

Free to Grow operated in three Colorado Springs neighborhoods—Stratton Meadows, Adams and Monterey—which are predominantly white and working class, with a large military presence that contributes to high mobility among residents.

Key Results

  • Despite outreach efforts which included registration drives in Free to Grow neighborhoods and contact with the Early Head Start program, the project failed to identify sufficient numbers of pre- and post-Head Start families for intensive case management services.
  • Before being discontinued, Free to Grow case management services were provided to 43 families.
  • Free to Grow staff provided support for transitions into and out of Head Start to 256 parents.
  • Free to Grow staff established three Neighborhood Family Councils in the target communities with 111 participants. Two groups in Stratton Meadows and Adams focused on neighborhood issues. The third group, in Monterey, known as Parents in Action, focused on school, rather than neighborhood, issues.
  • The grantee initiated a contract in which it paid the El Paso County Health Department to provide free and immediate substance abuse counseling to Free to Grow families.

Evaluation Findings

  • Evaluators from Mathematica Policy Research reported that:

    • Free to Grow was perceived as having made a large change in helping connect families with programs and services to meet their basic needs, as well as gaining access to substance abuse treatment services.
    • At the community level, the program was viewed as having made a positive change in getting residents more involved in the community.