Early Childhood CentersServices to Prepare Children for School Often Limited Gao ID: HEHS-95-21 March 21, 1995
More than a third--2.8 million--of the nation's children aged three and four were from poor families in 1990, a growth of 17 percent since 1980. This trend continues. These disadvantaged youngster often live in homes that provide little intellectual stimulation, as well as inadequate health care and nutrition. Lagging behind their middle- and upper-income peers when they enter school, many disadvantaged children never catch up. Early childhood centers funded by federal and state government prepare children from school and help them to overcome their disadvantages. This report answers the following questions: What services do disadvantaged children need to be prepared for school? To what extent do these children receive these services from early childhood centers? If disadvantaged children do not receive these services from early childhood centers, why not?
GAO found that: (1) disadvantaged children need intellectual stimulation, parental support, and adequate health care and nutrition to prepare for school; (2) early childhood centers provide all the necessary services and also promote developmental activities suitable to a child's age and individual level of development; (3) most disadvantaged children do not receive a full range of services from early childhood centers because of the limited number of centers and subsidies and narrow program missions; (4) school-sponsored, nonprofit, and for-profit childhood centers are often less likely to provide a full range of services than Head Start centers; and (5) despite Head Start's full range of services, the quality of its services has been uneven.