Qualla Boundary Head Start programs re-licensed

by Jul 8, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Staff


The Qualla Boundary Head Start and Early Head Start (QBHSEHS) programs recently found out that both have been re-licensed.  Information from EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) PHHS (Public Health and Human Services) states, “The re-licensure of Big Cove Children’s Center and the Dora Reed Center included training, inspections, and a Plan of Correction process for any minor deficiencies found.  Both early education programs are being licensed receiving 100 percent of the points possible and having verified fire and sanitation inspections.”

The programs are licensed for 269 children, according to Tina Saunooke, Early Education director, who related that 96 students are currently enrolled in Early Head Start and 144 in Head Start.

“Licensure is a necessary step to ensure the safety and health of all children that are entrusted to us (program) by families and the community,” she said.  “It is a pleasure to serve children both at the Dora Reed and Big Cove Centers and to see our community’s youngest members learning, growing, and thriving each day as we help families prepare their child for Kindergarten.”

Saunooke noted there are 10 tribal slots in the Early Head Start program and 29 in the Head Start program.  She explained, “We have license capability over the federal number of slots funded by Head Start.  In the past, there was a fee.  All slots are now free to eligible families.”

The inspection and re-licensure was conducted by the PHHS Regulatory Compliance Department (RCD) which is under the auspices of EBCI PHHS and uses the Cherokee Administrative Regulations (adopted May 1, 2018) as their guide in the process.

Jennifer Oskins, quality improvement coordinator, said that RCD looks at different components of the program including physical environment and documentation ranging from health and safety to student files and staff training.

“Our goal is to make sure that RCD supports QBHSESH to make sure they are where they need to be,” said Oskins.  “It’s very much a partnership.”

She called the staff of the Early Head Start and Head Start program on the Qualla Boundary “some of the hardest working folks in the community”.  Oskins added, “The services provided by these early educators are so crucial to the students and families that are served.  Everyone there is working so hard to provide the best services.  That really is reflected in what we saw when we did our inspection.”

Oskins is part of a five-person team doing the inspection which is a two-month process.  “We want the childcare staff to know what we’re looking at and what we’re looking for.  We conduct a training and an unannounced inspection.”

“The services that QBHSEHS provides are some of the most important on the Boundary.  These kids can be some of the most vulnerable community members.  The information and the guidance and all of the support they get in early education really helps to shape their outcomes later in life.”

Information from PHHS states, “Early childhood education is often cited as a quintessential factor in long-term academic success and is identified as a developmental proponent of social emotional skills, which are being increasingly valued in school readiness.  In addition to academic and social emotional skills, many families find early childhood education a hub of resources and support.”