A Program-wide Look at Early Identification of Socioemotional and Behavioral Needs in Head Start Programs to Better Serve Children


  • Rebecca Bulotsky Shearer University of Miami
  • Christine Delgado University of Miami
  • Jhonelle Bailey University of Miami
  • Jenna Futterer University of Miami
  • Rinatte Gruen University of Miami


early identification, socioemotional, screening tools, Head Start


Early childhood programs, such as Head Start, that serve children at risk can implement programmatic screening procedures to ensure equitable identification of children displaying a range of socioemotional and behavioral needs. We examined administrative records linked to a program-wide mental health screening tool to examine patterns of special needs referral and identification for children within the Head Start program (N=7,301 children). Findings showed that male, Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking Dual Language Learner (DLL) children were identified with a disability at a higher rate compared to female, non-Hispanic, and non-DLL children. Children displaying challenging behaviors such as aggressive, oppositional, or disruptive behavior were identified at higher rates than children displaying shy or socially withdrawn behaviors.





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