Supporting Our Staff As They Support Our Families

Given current circumstances, now more than ever, there is a need to support our Home Visitors, Family Service Workers and Center-based Teaching staff who cannot interact with their families in the conventional manner.

We have several options for training as these valuable professionals attempt to bridge the gap created by the pandemic, between families and programs. Please consider using some of your training and technical assistance funds to support staff who previously, consistently struggled with how best to reach their families and now have to grapple with restrictions, virtual visits and limited access not only to the children and families they serve, but also to solid, concrete ways to support them.

Mentor Coaching is an excellent way to support practitioners and teaching staff as they learn to navigate through new guidelines and restrictions on how they can reach their children and families and can be done virtually. Essential Elements is currently providing effective virtual mentor coaching to our clients for both teaching staff and family service staff.

At the heart of our mentor coaching services is a trusting, collaborative relationship with each Practitioner. Together, the Mentor Coach and Practitioner are active collaborators both focused on meeting the Practitioner’s individual learning needs. This begins with a commitment to be reliable to each other and a formal agreement to create measurable and meaningful individualized learning objectives together. This safe coaching relationship remains focused on the Practitioner’s learning, change, and growth.

Our mentor coaching services will meet the mentor coaching services requirements in the Head Start Program Performance Standards.  These services will guide your Practitioners toward improved implementation of best practices in your program, within the new boundaries in place for providing services during the COVID 19 pandemic

For more information, contact us by email or phone.

Re-opening In The Midst Of New Challenges And Hurdles

As our Head Start programs begin to tackle the new school year, with ever changing guidelines for re-opening, we want to offer our support and assistance.

Many program management and staff, new and veteran, have very real concerns about the children and families they serve.

  • What have our children experienced during the shutdown?
  • How have our parents fared?
  • Can they work?
  • Have our kids experienced food insecurity?
  • Have they been safe?
  • What will we need to do and what might we be faced with as we re-open?
  • How can I support my staff as children return to us?

All of Essential Elements’ trainings are now offered virtually. As Head Start professionals prepare to welcome children and families to a new school year that is not like anything any of us have previously experienced, we would like to help. We are offering virtual trainings that address the tough topics, effects of COVID 19 and the current race inequities, discussions in our communities, secondary trauma, and virtual support of families.

We are conducting virtual trainings for pre-service on most of our training topics, however, we would like to offer you additional support. Our trainers have been developing content that is relevant to current issues Head Start professional and the families they serve are experiencing.

Below are our most requested topics from programs searching for effective ways to support staff and families while addressing the very real impact and consequences the pandemic and racial tension brought to our programs across the country.

  • Managing Your Stress: Self-Care Strategies for Difficult Times
  • Working with Challenging Families During a Pandemic
  • Becoming Trauma Informed and Recognizing Secondary Trauma
  • Managing Challenging Behaviors
  • Helping Children Feel Safe in Today’s Society-COVID 19 and Racism
  • How to Have Hard Conversations with Staff
  • How to Have Hard Conversations with Families
  • Becoming Trauma Informed – Responsive Caregiving
  • Moving from Helper to Partner
  • Linking the Classroom to Home

For more information, contact us by email or give us a call.

Why Now is the Perfect Time for your Community Assessment!

Now is the perfect time to reassess or conduct your Community Assessment.  While program planning is always an important piece of a successful Head Start or Early Head Start program your community’s needs may have been impacted due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.  We can examine modifications that can be made to the traditional Community Needs Assessment (CNA) process, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Has your agency explored techniques for data prioritization as staff juggles pre-COVID-19 needs as well as current crisis requests? We can help!

A current and comprehensive Community Assessment is one of the key documents to have for effective program planning. A comprehensive Community Assessment is also needed to write your Refunding Application, your Recompetition Grant Application and to maintain programmatic compliance. Your Community Assessment is a key document that drives decision-making in your program.

We create comprehensive & custom designed Community Assessments for Head Start programs, Early Head Start programs and agencies (including Community Action Agencies).  Our Community Assessments will meet the requirements of the Head Start Program Performance Standards (and of your CAP or other program regulations). All of our services are custom designed to meet the specific needs of your program or agency; we will include any additional data that you request.

Our Community Assessments include:

    • Aggregating and analyzing a multitude of data sources;
    • Comparing current data with past years’ data;
    • Colorful graphs and charts illustrating the data;
    • Key findings for each piece of data;
    • Highlights & considerations for each major section;
    • Survey results of your Parents, Staff, Board of Directors and Community Partners.

In addition to Community Assessments we also:

For more information on any of these services, or to request a sample, please contact

Struggling With Becoming “Trauma Informed?” We Have Solutions For Your Program.

According to NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci, “Head Start is a safe haven for more than one million vulnerable children and families, many of whom are battling the storms of addiction and other traumatic experiences.” It takes courage and commitment to work with the most vulnerable children and families in our communities.  It’s not surprising that staff are seeing the impacts of complex developmental trauma in their classrooms, as well experiencing an increase in second-hand trauma themselves. Data confirms an increase in the number of families reporting involvement with child welfare agencies, alcohol and drug dependency, domestic violence, mental illness, grandparents raising grandchildren, poor health, and housing insecurity.

Are you interested in a highly interactive and custom designed training which addresses:

  • Contemporary research on the impact and effects and stress (including chronic stress) on the development of preschool children
  • The essential elements that build stress-responsive classrooms that support the development of children at high risk for negative outcomes of stress and trauma
  • The strategies that build a “culture of support” for children and staff; developing classroom community, building self-regulation skills, and managing second-hand trauma and compassion fatigue.

We currently have availability in April and May, or for your preservice, for your program to become more aware of the effects of trauma on young children and signs of second-hand trauma, increasing effective intervention strategies for staff and children in your care. Contact us for more information.


Making Accidental Learning Part of the Plan

Sadly, for many professionals in early childhood, we say “children learn through play,” but you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence that we believe it’s true. What I mean is, letting kids play all day long, how could we possibly meet all the HSPPS? There’re things to do, a curriculum to implement, big group-small groups, circle time, intentional teaching, assessments, snacks to serve, diapers to change, more diapers to change, and clean up, so much clean up. Sound familiar?

Are you interested in a training that focuses on developmentally appropriate practices for infants and toddlers? We dive deep into what it means to support learning through play authentically, create environments worthy of exploration, make learning visible through innovative documentation, and get real about what it means to be a grown-up.

Let’s find the freedom inside the HSPPS and put play at the center of everything we do with infants and toddlers.

Essential Tips: School Skills for Families

Partnering with Parents for School Readiness

What is the most important thing that we want our children to remember about their school days? Is it following too many rules? Being told what to do? Testing, testing, testing? Of course not! And when we think about our own days at school, we remember more personal and experiential events – rather than test answers or when to raise our hands. Support for our children and their families as they enter their educational journey is an awesome and important reality for Head Start programs. How to make that successful requires thought and intention on our part. Consider these things:

Tip #1:  Developmental language may be new to families.

Not every family understands child development. They may not realize how the ages and stages of children relate to school success. Displaying newsletters, classroom notes and posters in a Family Service Worker’s office will provide your families with ongoing information about their children’s growth. Discuss their own child’s specific development at conferences or home visits. Talk with parents about what is typical and address any questions they have. Follow up with ways to encourage developmental stages with home supplies or materials as a great home-school connection.

Tip #2:  Publicize the great things that go on every day in your program!

Offer a training or parent event on the important skills that children are learning. Detail the sets of important skills –  social/emotional, gross and fine motor, cognitive and transitional – and give families a way to see their child as others do. We often slip “eduspeak” into our conversation. While it’s helpful to clarify terms, avoid it when possible. By giving parents an understanding of educational terms and phrases, we provide them with talking points for their first kindergarten parent conference and transition them into the public education sector.

Tip #3:  Start with success.

Parents have many strong supports already in place. They deserve validation and recognition for those successes. Give them an opportunity to answer questions that show how they work with their child at home: “What do you do at home to help your child be successful at school? How do you partner with your child’s teacher?” Help families understand that regular book time or a specific bed time schedule is far more valuable than any set of flashcards or purchased school skills booklet.

Working together with families for school readiness provides the most success as children move into elementary school. When families are comfortable with their role and empowered as advocates for their child, they will make an important difference throughout the school years.

Interested in staff training on working with families to promote school readiness? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Essential Tips: Engagement + Intention + Learning Success!

We know that the most effective learning is achieved when children are engaged. Engagement occurs when children are involved and energized by what is being presented and when they are active with others as they solve problems together. Equally important is intention on the part of the teacher. Together, these strategies hold the key to positive outcomes in the Approaches to Learning domain. How can we create the best environment for learning success? Invite your staff to follow these three tips:

Tip #1:  Use stories, songs and conversation.

These interactions build language, connections and confidence in young learners.  One-on-one with peers, sharing with the group and having special teacher-child moments all promote learning.  From the repetition of traditional nursery rhymes to higher order questions that require reasoning…language development is an important skill.

Tip #2:  Create focused classroom activities.

Thematic learning can be child-centered in order to foster independence and problem-solving skills.  While following the curriculum is critical, adding imaginative experiences in centers around the room builds innovation and initiative.

Tip #3:  Design opportunities for fun.

Use poetry, cooking and movement to encourage curiosity and infuse every day with joy!  Participating together and contributing to the group can reduce behavior challenges, develop persistence and cultivate community in the classroom.

Would you like to strengthen classroom practice?  Is your staff intentional in their planning and implementation? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at to schedule custom designed training on “Engaging Learners through Intentional Teaching” at your program.

Essential Tips: Creating a Full Community Assessment

Tip #1:  Collect a wide variety of data.

There is a tremendous amount of data available.  Check sources such as the Census Bureau, State Data Centers, County Health Departments as well as local school districts and early intervention programs.  Surfing the Net, making phone calls and conducting surveys will yield a great deal of essential data.  Also remember that you have valuable internal programmatic information – your PIR, wait list and annual report, just to name a few.

Tip #2:  Look for trends.

When you are collecting current data, also gather information from recent years.  This will give you an opportunity to compare data.  By aggregating and analyzing the information, you will be able to identify trends.  These trends will provide you with key information to make critical programmatic decisions. Having current and complete information allows leaders to make strategic decisions regarding the direction of their program.

Tip #3:  Create a user-friendly format.

Be sure that your community assessment is a document that is easy to read.  It should also be user-friendly so that you can find needed information quickly.  Include a combination of graphs and charts as well as text.  With each graph, add a “Key Finding” that describes the data.  After each major section, include a “Highlights and Considerations” section that summarizes the key information.

If you need help creating a Community Assessment, give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at to discuss your needs.

Essential Tips: Strategic Planning

Tip #1:  Achieve buy-in before you begin.

Include all stakeholders in strategic planning to establish buy-in. Staff from a variety of positions (teachers, family service workers, center directors, home visitors, management staff, etc.) will bring a different point of view. Also invite members from your Policy Council and Board of Directors as well as community partners. Ask everyone to complete a survey prior to strategic planning. Be sure the survey includes questions about what they want the program to accomplish for children, families, staff and community.

Tip #2:  Create a list of your program’s strengths and challenges.

This list should contain valuable information to establish your program’s goals and objectives. The challenges represent potential goals and the strengths represent potential strategies to achieve the goals. Also take time to review your program’s mission, vision and guiding principles. Ensure they accurately reflect what you are working to achieve. Finally, for each goal and objective, in addition to timelines and persons responsible, include a “success indicator” column.  This will specifically describe how it will look when each goal is achieved.

Tip #3:  Review and utilize your programmatic data.

Strategic planning is a great time to collect and review key programmatic documents as a group. Critical data includes items such as your self-assessment, community assessment, child assessment data, CLASS data, ongoing monitoring data and family engagement data, just to name a few. Review this important data when creating your goals and objectives.

Looking for someone to facilitate your program’s Strategic Planning and end up with a written strategic plan? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at

Essential Tips: Writing Your 5 Year Grant Application

Tip #1:  Show that your program utilizes a systems-based approach to service delivery.

There are many opportunities throughout the grant application to demonstrate that your program has systems in place. Key systems include references to 1) your policies and procedures, 2) written plans and 3) an ongoing monitoring system. Demonstrate that you have systems in place to deliver services to children and families – including the way you track and monitor service delivery. Display other systems you have in place – such as recruitment/enrollment, professional development, transitions and tracking staff qualifications.

Tip #2:  Include information on your data-driven decision-making model.

There is a lot of valuable programmatic data at your fingertips – child assessment data, enrollment and attendance data, family engagement data, CLASS data and ongoing monitoring data, just to name a few. By aggregating and analyzing this data, you have critical information at hand that you can use to make decisions for your program. Provide information on how you will measure and report progress on your long-term goals and short-term objectives as well as the impact areas.

Tip #3:  Demonstrate a strengths-based, empowerment model in serving families.

It’s important to meet families where they are and build upon their strengths. This is a foundational element in Head Start. Demonstrate how your program will support family growth and development. Show how your program empowers families to self-sufficiency. Explain how you utilize multi-disciplinary teams and strong community partnerships to achieve this. Share information on how you implement your Parent, Family and Community Engagement plan as well as how you utilize the data from the plan.

Looking for someone to write or review your 5 year grant application? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at