The California Department of Education (CDE) Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP)

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Creating out of crisis: How R9HSA built wrap-around literacy readiness to engage children and parents with
California Department of Education (CDE EHS-CCP) Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, The California Department of Education (CDE) Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) Director Donna Elmore and staff were faced with the problem of how to connect with children and families in their program.

With a service area spread over six counties in California—stretching from Fresno north to Del Norte—the CDE’s EHS-CCP is admittedly far-flung.

A recent addition in the Head Start galaxy, the Sacramento-based EHS-CCP program was started when Congress in 2015 appropriated funds to provide comprehensive services to existing child-care programs. The CDE applied through a highly competitive process and was one of x programs funded in CA and is only 1 of x states with a program at the state level.

The EHS-CCP serves children who are part of an early learning and care center or family child care home e. In the six counties, that numbers more than 230, directly, and more than a thousand, indirectly.

“Our partnership bridges distances in rural communities,” Elmore noted. “Our grant provides an additional boost to areas where no one else wants to go.” It also expands beyond the participating programs to support the greater community in this small, rural areas.

A few years ago, Elmore turned to the Region 9 Head Start Association to create a new conference that brings together EHS-CCP Partnering Agencies, teachers,  and home care providers as well as parents.

“We contacted the Region 9 Head Start Association to find out how we could bring a quality conference to Northern California,” Elmore recalled. “Basically, Ed Condon and his staff were able to take what we wanted and make it happen. It was personalized to the training needs of our partners…This has been really a good thing to build relationships with our partners and other grantees. ”

Elmore said the EHS-CCP Partner Conference has been “phenomenal” since staff are “eager for training.”

“We reach people who feel like their work is making a difference, and they are very professional in what they are doing.”

Donna Elmore

However, along came the pandemic in 2020, limiting gatherings and travel, so innovation was again called for to create virtual workshops. The CDE EHS-CCP staff developed a literacy program that would include monthly parent webinar, newsletter, and a series of books to be delivered to all of their EHS-CCP families. To implement the Literacy Program, the EHS-CCP staff reached out to R9HSA to collaborate on an innovative way to increase and support parent involvement.

“We haven’t been able to travel in over a year,” Elmore noted. A Head Start alum, herself, Elmore knows how fun and exciting Head Start can be. She attended the very first Head Start program when it was launched in 1965 as a summer enrichment activity, this one in West Sacramento. “I came from a large family and started school early. They were very concerned about me going into first grade, so I attended the summer program.”


Building on input from a committee of EHS-CCP staff, parents, and partners about what topics they wanted to cover, Region 9 HSA in collaboration with the EHS-CCP staff created a new webinar series that connects family engagement with literacy in activities that promote and improve School Readiness Goals (SRG).

All of the EHS-CCP families received a set of books that are on a certain topic pertaining to the monthly parent webinar, and the parents that attend the free  webinars also receive a voucher for a meal since the webinars are offered in the evenings.

The books encourage parents to read to their children, an important school readiness activity. To tie together the entire program, parents receive a newsletter that explains topics, gives tips and explanations for engaging with their child and helps them keep track of SRG activities.  Together with the webinars, the project encourages a stronger relationship with reading, talking and singing.

Said Elmore, “Ed’s team is able to bring to families the most meaningful engagement that we have had so far. We took the limitations of COVID and turned it into a huge support for families.”

—By H.A. Silliman



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