Giving Compass' Take:

• Jackie Mader reports that Head Start centers serve many functions in rural towns where they are often the best or only option for high-quality childcare. The services these centers provide to the community range from medical screenings to substance abuse prevention. 

• How can these programs be replicated and improved to best serve rural populations? 

• Find out how philanthropists can make an impact for rural communities

The Kawerak Head Start center in Nome, Alaska is the only option parents have when it comes to early childhood education there. The center is also much more than just a preschool for the families in this tiny city on the tundra. Kawerak provides medical professionals like a dentist, audiologist, and vision screener to its 240 Alaska Native children and their families.

This is common in rural areas, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress, which found in some states, the federally-funded program accounts for one-third of all child care centers. In 2015-16, 68 percent of rural families with a child enrolled in Head Start received a family service including job training, parenting education, and substance abuse prevention through the program.

Nationwide, access to quality childcare is an issue that keeps parents out of work or puts children in subpar centers. Rural areas are especially prone to “child care deserts” which means there are either no centers available or not enough spaces available for children in that area. Leila Schochet, research and advocacy manager for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress, said Head Start is not only important for families, it’s also critical for rural economies.

Read the full article on Head Start in rural communities by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report.