Oakland, CA – Today, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao officially launched ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ an innovative program that brings educational and wraparound services to families that face housing insecurity and access challenges to traditional Head Start centers and family childcare locations.
Joining Mayor Thao in making the announcement were Cynthia Yao, Regional Program Manager, Office of Head Start, Region 9, Councilmember Carroll Fife, Councilmember Kevin Jenkins, Councilmember Treva Reid, To Scott-Smith, Head Start Policy Council Chair, community leaders and Head Start families.
“The City of Oakland is very excited to expand this much needed service offering to families,” said Mayor Thao. “The Mobile Classroom will allow the Head Start program to provide vital high-quality prenatal to 5-year-old early education, development and wrap around services like health and nutrition screenings and support to families that are unhoused.”
In the new five-year Head Start grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Head Start, the City of Oakland received $13,484,533 beginning July 2021. As part of this grant, the Office of Head Start allocated startup funding for the purchase of an RV to be converted to a Mobile Classroom.
Diveena Cooppan, Oakland Head Start Program Director shared, “The Ready, Set, Go! Mobile Classroom is the result of listening to our community and responding to what we hear. Families were dropping out of Head Start because it was too difficult to get to an early childhood education center while dealing with homelessness. The City had to find new ways to provide services and Region 9 Head Start supported our innovation.”
Based on program and community data, the need for additional services for families with young children experiencing homelessness persists in our service area. In Alameda County, youth under the age of 18 make up 25% of all individuals experiencing homelessness. For the City of Oakland Head Start Program, 104 out of 479 families enrolled in the 2022-23 Program Year, (21.7%) experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness. According to 2021 U.S. Census data, 13% of children in Oakland under five live below the poverty level.
The opportunity to provide a mobile classroom option through the Home-Based program model will allow the City of Oakland Head Start Program to address the unmet need for high-quality infant, toddler and preschool early care and education services and reach additional families with young children across the city, who may otherwise not have access to such services. Capacity for child care services for children from birth to age 5 has decreased. The 2022 Oakland City Profile: Early Care and Education Data, First 5 Alameda County report stated that in 2020 there was a “90.9% unmet need for infant and toddler care.” The report also stated that “since 2006, capacity for child care for children from birth to age 5 has decreased; licensed center capacity has declined by 21.8% and licensed family child care capacity reduced by 57.2%.” The mobile classroom is bringing much need services to areas that may lack child care facilities.
About Head Start
Since 1971, the City of Oakland, Human Services Department, Head Start Program provides comprehensive, integrated program services available at no cost to pregnant people and children aged 5 with low resources or disabilities. Families and children experiencing homelessness and children in the foster care system are a program priority.
The mobile classroom is part of the Home-Based program where early childhood educators conduct home visits with families to provide comprehensive child development and family support services. There are also socialization sessions for families in the Home-Based program to come together for activities, trainings, resources, and community.
The Head Start Program is helping children and families get ready to succeed in school and in life. The program provides early learning and development services, prioritizes health and wellness, family wellbeing and family engagement in safe and healthy settings.