Evaluation of free to grow: head start partnerships to promote substance-free communities

Eval Rev. 2011 Apr;35(2):153-88. doi: 10.1177/0193841X11403989.


Free to Grow: Head Start Partnerships to Promote Substance-free Communities (FTG) was a national initiative in which local Head Start (HS) agencies, in partnership with other community organizations, implemented a mix of evidence-based family-strengthening and community-strengthening strategies. The evaluation of FTG used a quasi-experimental design to compare 14 communities that participated in the FTG intervention with 14 matched comparison communities. Telephone surveys were conducted with two cohorts of the primary caregivers of children in HS at baseline and then annually for 2 years. The survey was also administered to repeated cross-sectional samples of primary caregivers of young children who were not enrolled in HS. No consistent evidence was found in changes in family functioning or neighborhood conditions when the 14 FTG sites were compared to 14 matched sites. However, caregivers of young children who were not in HS in three high-implementing FTG sites showed evidence of improvements in neighborhood organization, neighborhood norms against substance abuse, and child disciplinary practices. Results provide highly limited support for the concept that family and neighborhood conditions that are likely to affect child development and well-being can be changed through organized efforts implemented by local HS programs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Early Intervention, Educational / methods*
  • Early Intervention, Educational / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnicity
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Marketing
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors