COMMUNITY HIGHLIGHT – July 2022
PICA HEAD START is this month’s featured organization. All featured organizations can be found in the CIC Resource Guide.
Note that CIC cannot vouch for the organizations on this list.
PICA Head Start
PICA coordinates services for children from six weeks to five years old, pregnant women, and caregivers entering the workforce. Each family that enrolls in PICA programming is assigned an advocate who works closely with family members to help them establish goals, identify their needs, and access the necessary resources. This advocate relationship sets PICA apart from other organizations. Each family receives individualized support, which can include parental education, external referrals, mental health services, and more, alongside the support their child receives in the classroom. Even children and family members that do not qualify for PICA’s immediate services benefit from the wraparound support the family advocate initiates.
All of PICA’s services encourage healthy development not only for children but also for their parents. They start positive family programming early through the Early Head Start (EHS) program for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. EHS programs promote early cognitive and social-emotional development, with extra pre-natal education for pregnant women to ensure healthy outcomes. There are various program options based on a family’s needs, including time commitment and financial ability.
PICA’s other major program is Head Start, a comprehensive education program for preschoolers intended to prepare them for school and support their healthy development. Children can attend PICA programming from three and a half to 10 hours a day, depending on the program that fits their family best. PICA teachers prepare full curriculums for their classes and ongoing assessments help students demonstrate progress and track learning.
Project TOPS, one program under both the Head Start and Early Head Start umbrellas, combines support for children and support for parents, providing additional programming for families with a parent transitioning into the workforce. On top of that, PICA offers professional development and workforce training for parents as part of their commitment to wraparound support and emphasis on parent involvement.
Caregivers who participate in PICA’s training programs may receive a financial stipend or additional opportunities to gain professional development certificates and experience. For example, the Childhood Development Training program includes hands-on experience in a PICA classroom, and GED classes help caregivers obtain their diplomas to be better prepared for the job market. Preparing parents for the workforce is a tenet of PICA’s work, as it is a key component of supporting the success of the entire family.
PICA builds relationships with their families and students while working alongside family advocates and other professionals to identify the needs of their community. Beyond their educational programming for children and adults, PICA works with dentists, mental health professionals, and special education professionals to provide for the individual needs of their students. On-site dentists, with a parent’s permission, will administer X-rays, fluoride treatments, and dental exams as needed. Special education professionals will help PICA teachers determine whether students need additional support and if a student qualifies for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). These on-site support services increase accessibility and promote the health of their classroom and community.
The combination of PICA’s education programs, support services, training opportunities, advocates, and network of organizations and healthcare professionals makes it a place where families can reach their full potential. They prioritize individualized, comprehensive care for their students and families, strengthening communities on a multi-generational level.
Services are available to families in the Twin Cities area who are income-eligible, meaning they meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines, have foster children, or are homeless. Financial exceptions are made on a limited basis for children with disabilities.
Interested families can register at https://www.picaheadstart.org/enroll-now, or walk into any PICA center and a team member will be able to assist with registration.