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Making the Network Connection
Making the Network Connection
Social Emotional Development in Head Start and Early Head Start
Social Emotional Development in Head Start and Early Head Start


By The Alabama Department of Human Resources

March 1, 2019


Montgomery, Ala. - Stop and think about what is most important to you in this whole world.  Is it something you own or is it a relationship you have?  The answer for most people is relationship and the same is true for children.


A child’s social-emotional development involves learning how to understand his/her own feelings and the feeling of others, how to regulate and express his/her emotions in appropriate ways, and how to form healthy relationships with others.  For infants and toddlers, social-emotional development occurs within the context of relationships.


The Alabama Department of Human Resources Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program (DHR EHS-CCP) understands the importance of fostering social-emotional development in the 566 infants and toddlers we serve.  This year, DHR EHS-CCP adopted Dr. Becky Bailey’s Baby Doll Circle Time® to help us better focus on the social-emotional development of our children.  Baby Doll Circle Time® enhances the quality of the relationship between caregivers and children by strenthening attachment, attunement, and social play.  


Throughout the year, caregivers have one-on-one intentional, positive interactions with each child.  These interactions, called I Love You Rituals, have four ingredients to strenghten the bond of the relationship:  touch, eye contact, presence, and a playful situation.  During Baby Doll Circle Time®, children are invited to participate in circle time where they interact with their own baby dolls by doing I Love You Rituals with their dolls.  During this group activity, children re-live and re-experience that one-on-one connection with their caregiver. 


Baby Doll Circle Time® reduces the stress of group care by improving the quality of caregiver-child relationships, increases poitive affect between caregivers and children, and wires the brain for optimal development.  DHR EHS-CCP has seen positive benefits from incorporating Baby Doll Circle Time® in our classrooms and family child care homes.  We have received positive feedback from our caregivers about the impact it is having on the children in our program.


Teacher-Child Interaction


It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Head Start!
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Head Start!

By the Alabama Head Start Association

March 1, 2019


Talladega, Ala. - Every day around 9:30 AM, Gwendolyn Peterson’s daughter transforms from a student in Ms. Tanisha’s class at Cheaha Regional Head Start program into Alabama’s own Wonder Woman.


She is one of seven students currently enrolled in Cheaha Regional’s Super Hero class, a unique approach to addressing the mental health needs of students enrolled in Head Start created through a partnership with Highland Health Systems in Jacksonville, Alabama.


According to private screenings and on-going assessments, approximately five percent of children enrolled at Cheaha Regional Head Start struggle with social and emotional challenges. Routine tasks, such as sharing with classmates, can quickly escalate into explosive outbursts that disrupt the class. The Super Hero classroom seeks to tackle the underlying issues causing these disturbances head-on by providing these students with daily, on-sight intervention and rehabilitative services with a trained mental health professional.


“Providing services at the Head Start location has numerous benefits for the treatment process,” said Jennifer Benefield, a Supervisor with Highland Health Systems. “School-based mental health allows for more collaboration between teachers, staff, and parents. The Head Start staff can provide the mental health staff with much more valuable information about how the child is struggling or progressing in their regular classroom.”


To an outsider, the Super Hero classroom looks like a typical preschool setting: it is set up in different stations, and staff leads the class in large group activities and circle time. What’s different is a specialized curriculum focusing on forming healthy relationships, communicating effectively, getting along with others, problem-solving, and self-regulation.


The students visit the Super Hero classroom daily from 9:30 AM until 1:30 PM. The rest of the day, they are with their peers in their regular classroom. Outside of this setting, these students would receive this kind of therapy only once or twice a month.


“There are fewer stigmas when providing services at school rather than attending a mental health clinic,” added Benefield. “The children are in a more natural environment and able to remain part of their school family every day.


Ms. Peterson has already seen a difference in her daughter. She says, “I have noticed a significantly calmer child with the ability to control some of her disruptive behavior and exhibit fewer explosive episodes.”


More importantly, Peterson adds, “This class has provided a means for staying in school when her behavior is disruptive.”


Kelly Mumper, the director of the Cheaha Regional Head Start program, agrees.


“Having the Super Hero classroom means that, as an agency, we recognize that these services are critical to assist children and families in our overall goal of helping all children become school ready,” said Mumper. “This room is changing and improving the lives of the children and families we serve.”