Toddlers in Early Head Start: A Portrait of 2-Year-Olds, Their Families, and the Programs Serving Them. Volume I: Age 2 Report

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
Feb 19, 2015
Cheri A. Vogel, Pia Caronongan, Jaime Thomas, Eileen Bandel, Yange Xue, Juliette Henke, Nikki Aikens, Kimberly Boller, and Lauren Murphy

Key Findings:

  • EHS programs provide services at recommended levels; family uptake varies. According to program director reports, all programs that provide home-based services offered families in the home-based program option weekly home visits and at least two group socializations per month. All programs providing center-based services offered four or five center days per week. Considering the services that families received, those in the home-based option received, on average, 37 visits in the year between ages 1 and 2. Families in the center-based option received, on average, 179 days (about 3.5 days per week) during the same period.
  • Home visiting and center quality scores are in the mid-range. Overall quality scores are in the mid-range in both home visits and classrooms. EHS home visits score highest in the areas of child engagement and relationship with the family and lowest in nonintrusiveness and facilitation of parent-child interaction. Classroom quality scores are highest in the area of emotional and behavioral support, which includes positive climate, teacher sensitivity, regard for child perspectives, and behavioral guidance; classroom scores are lowest in the area of engaged support for learning, which includes facilitation of learning and development, quality of feedback, and language modeling. Home visit quality and emotional/behavioral aspects of center quality are positively associated with the staff member having a CDA credential, regardless of overall educational level, and negatively related to depressive symptoms.
  • Parents and home environments support cognitive and physical development, but children score lower than national norms on language development. According to Baby FACES, about 60 percent of parents read to their child more than once per day, and an additional 30 percent read about once daily. More than half of all households (57 percent) have at least 25 books for the child, and nearly another quarter have 11 to 25 books for the child. Also, based on parents’ reports, 80 percent of 2-year-olds have excellent or very good health; only 5 percent have fair or poor general health. Parents reported that all of the 2-year-olds received some type of health services, including doctor or dentist visits, immunizations, and evaluation for disabilities in the past year. According to parents’ reports, 2-year-old EHS children are near their same-age peers in general development. However, children in EHS place below national norms in language development and, according to benchmarks set for children of this age, nearly one-half of 2-year-olds in the Baby FACES sample demonstrate or are at risk for delays in expressive language.
  • Although most children stay in the program, more than one-fifth leave EHS by age 2. Overall, early exiters come from families facing a higher number of maternal risks; for example: 75 percent of exiting families receive public assistance, compared with 68 percent of continuing families, and 31 percent of exiting mothers were teenage mothers, versus 21 percent of continuing mothers. Families most commonly cited moving away from the program area as their reason for leaving the program (31 percent), and, on average, expressed satisfaction with the program (74 percent were very satisfied and 97 percent were very or somewhat satisfied). About one-quarter of early exiters move on to another EHS or early childhood program.

The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES) is a descriptive study of Early Head Start  programs designed to inform policy and practice at both national and local levels. In 2007, the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, contracted with Mathematica Policy Research and its partners to implement this six-year longitudinal study in 89 Early Head Start programs.

Baby FACES followed two cohorts of children through their time in Early Head Start, starting in 2009, the first wave of data collection. The newborn cohort included 194 pregnant mothers and those with newborn children; and the 1-year-old cohort included 782 children who were approximately 1 year old (ranging from 10 to 15 months) at the outset of the study. This Baby FACES report focuses on the second wave of data collection and the children from the 1-year-old cohort (who were 2 in 2010), and presents findings on two broad topics:

  1. Describing EHS program services and staff qualifications
    • Programs reported offering center days and home visits at or above levels recommended by the Office of Head Start. Weekly data on the services children receive throughout the year showed that children in the home-based option received, on average, about three visits per month, and those in the center-based option received about 3.5 days per week.
    • The majority of families receive at least one referral over the course of the year to access additional services. Programs also provide activities for parents such as group socializations and parenting workshops.
    • Staff are well qualified, with 7 to 10 years of experience, on average, for teachers and home visitors, and more than 70 percent holding college degrees. Turnover of teachers and home visitors is relatively low (10 and 12 percent, respectively).
    • Quality of home visits (Home Visitor Rating Scale–Adapted) and center-based care (Classroom Assessment Scoring System–Toddler) is in the mid-range. Home visit quality and emotional/behavioral aspects of center quality are positively related to the staff member having a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential regardless of overall education level, and negatively related to depressive symptoms.
  2. Describing child and family outcomes at age 2
  • Children’s health is on track, and according to parents’ reports, 2-year-olds are approaching same-age peers in general development. However, on other measures of language and social-emotional development, the picture is not so clear. Although standardized measures show children have some catching up to do with their same-age peers, Early Head Start staff and parents appear to have divergent views of how children are doing in these domains.

Next Steps/Looking Ahead

This report sets the stage for a final report on 3-year-olds. This final report will include information collected in spring 2011 and 2012 and will encompass all children who remain in the program through age 3. It will focus on models to understand relations among family and child characteristics, service uptake, and outcomes. A series of short reports and program-friendly briefs will address other topics of interest.


Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Time Frame


Senior Staff

Nikki Aikens
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Eileen Bandel
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Cleo Jacobs Johnson
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Cheri Vogel
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