The Importance of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Programs

The Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) program in PathStone’s Child and Family Development Services (CFDS) serves as an advocate and a voice for migrant and seasonal farmworker families.  The plight of migrant farmworkers is one of back-breaking work in less than optimum conditions - unbearable heat, working sun-up to sun-down, bending over 10-12 hours a day - while planting, tending and harvesting fruits and vegetables for an entire nation.  PathStone MSHS provides holistic services to migrant families as they arrive in Adams, Berks, Chester, and Franklin Counties in Pennsylvania, and in Atlantic and Cumberland Counties in New Jersey.

The key objective is to prepare young children for success in kindergarten by meeting their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs in a safe and healthy environment.  PathStone MSHS staff remains committed to assisting parents as they strive to provide for their families.  Staff helps them locate medical and dental homes; works closely with families to set goals and offer resources to achieve those goals; and provides educational activities for the parents about nutrition, budgeting, parenting, accessing community services, and much more. The program is designed to involve the parents in the development of their children and identifying the program that is best for their child. Parents learn the importance of being involved in the process and often become volunteers for the program.

PathStone provides multi-cultural education in individualized child development programming, while proudly employing at least one bi-lingual teacher in each classroom.  Within the past year, many staff members have received their Child Development Associate credential, associate degree, or even master’s degree. Staff conducts health and developmental screenings to access progress and to determine if there are delays that may necessitate further testing and referral to community agencies.

PathStone CFDS also has a Head Start program and an Early Head Start program, both in Pennsylvania.  The only difference between those programs and the MSHS program is the eligibility requirement.  All three programs have an age requirement and an income requirement (below the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines).  MSHS has two additional requirements - migration (within the preceding 24 months) and work in agriculture (row and field crops).

Without MSHS programs, farmworker parents would be forced to take their children with them to the fields, putting their health and safety at risk.

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