Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (Burlington, VT)

Program Name

Champlain Valley Head Start - Interpretation Services

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

Champlain Valley Head Start (CVHS) provides comprehensive services to children and families with children birth to five, both in home-based and center-based settings. An increasing number of families speak a language other than English in the home. In order to ensure access to the comprehensive services provided by CVHS, the program utilizes interpreters and community resources to recruit and support refugee and immigrant families. 

Program Description

The Champlain Valley Region has experienced significant changes in demographics due in large part to being deemed a resettlement community for refugees. The earliest arrivals in the late 1980s and early 1990s were from Vietnam and Bosnia. Since the early 2000s, more families from African nations have arrived in Vermont. The most recent refugee arrivals are originally from Bhutan and Burma. With each new population comes the need for qualified interpreters to assist families in fully accessing services in their new communities. Champlain Valley Head Start has long provided interpreters to families to ensure all families are able to benefit fully from our program. CVHS contracts directly with interpreters and utilizes professional telephonic and in-person interpretive services. Due to the ever-increasing breadth of languages spoken by our families and the need to ensure confidential, ethical, and professional services, CVHS has moved towards hiring professional interpreters through Vermont Interpreting and Translating Services, a program of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.

The CVHS Family Services Coordinator continually collaborates with local and national interpreting and translating services and participates in the Refugee and Immigrant Service Provider Network (RISPnet) convened by the State Refugee Coordinator and Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.

Resource Materials Used in Program

CVHS relies heavily on local interpreters and community members and finds this an invaluable way to connect with the families we serve. We have had our brochures and other program materials translated but find that most information is best conveyed in-person through an interpreter. CVHS utilizes the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program for training and technical assistance needs related to understanding and serving refugee families. 

Groups Served by Program

Champlain Valley Head Start serves refugee and immigrant families with the following language needs:

Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, Chinese, Dinka, French, Karen (Burmese), Kirundi, Maay Maay, Nepali (Bhutanese), Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tibetan, Twi, Urdu, Vietnamese

Program Funding

Office of Head Start, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The CVHS Family Services Coordinator has oversight for managing and maintaining the interpretation services program.

All CVHS staff members attend annual training, a component of which is often focused on serving families from diverse backgrounds. Additional training is offered to staff serving larger populations of refugee/immigrant families on best practices in working with interpreters.

Program Evaluation

Surveys are distributed annually to all families to gauge their satisfaction with the services received throughout the year. Additionally, we survey all families as a component of our Community Assessment to understand their needs and experiences related to services in the community. When possible we convene small focus groups with an interpreter to ensure we have feedback specifically from refugee/immigrant families. 

Program Outcomes

In 2012, 82% of survey respondents indicated they found home visits to be both fun and educational for their child and 95% said they would recommend Head Start to their friends and family based on their experiences with the program. Feedback elicited from the Community Assessment indicated there is still a need for more interpretation services. This was especially true for our Maay Maay speaking families who largely do not read in their native language and are unable to rely on translated materials. 

Additional Comments

The largest language group served by CVHS, other than English, is Maay Maay spoken by resettled Somali Bantu families. Through our experiences working with Somali Bantu communities, we have learned to always find a way to communicate orally due to low literacy levels in their native language. Recently, several parents expressed the desire to learn to drive and were frustrated that the driver's manual was not accessible in their native language. We convened a group of potential drivers and had an interpreter come read the manual to them to ensure they could work towards achieving this goal, giving them greater independence and access to educational and employment opportunities.

We are planning to videotape important information related to child development and the Head Start program in order to increase access in a visual and auditory way.

Program Contact

Jennifer Fink, Family Services Coordinator
Champlain Valley Head Start
1-800-854-9648 ext.202

Program Dates

The interpretation services program of Champlain Valley Head Start has been in existence for over 20 years and as if 2012 remains in operation.