ACCAP, Fraser team up to serve Head Start families

The Anoka County Community Action Program and Fraser, an organization that provides education, health care and housing services to people with disabilities, have partnered to offer on-site mental health services at the Anoka/Washington County Head Start program, 9574 Foley Blvd. NW.

Fraser’s fourth mental health day-treatment site opened in Coon Rapids this June, and three children are already participating.

Early Head Start and Head Start serve children pre-birth to age 5. The day treatment site will primarily cater to children in traditional Head Start programming, ages 3-5.

If Head Start students are having trouble behaving, the mental health day treatment site is an option that will keep kids connected to their Head Start classroom in the same building.

“It’s really focused on teaching them new skills to regulate emotions and just the skills to be successful in the classroom,” according to Aric Jensen, director of Fraser Mental Health. “A lot of the kids maybe are struggling with some behaviors in the classroom and at home, and our program is really devised to help them for a period of time, with the ultimate goal of helping them be fully reintegrated into the classroom.”

Anoka/Washington County Head Start classes generally enroll 17 to 20 students, so getting students who are struggling with social skills into a smaller group for more one-on-one attention is a huge benefit, according to Jacqueline Cross, Head Start director for the Anoka/Washington County program.

“We want to make sure that there’s a place for all children,” Cross said.

The mental health day treatment site can accommodate up to seven children at one time. Jensen expects the program to be at capacity this fall, he said.

Children will typically report to the mental health day treatment site for half days for nine to 12 months, but there is flexibility, Jensen said.

Children’s needs come first, so they can be pulled from the Head Start program for 30 minutes to a half day, although only with parent permission, according to Cross.

Parents will typically be billed for their children’s participation in the day treatment site through their medical insurance.

So far, ACCAP’s partnership with Fraser has gone smoothly. “They fit us like a glove,” Cross said. Without Fraser, “there would be a gap in our services; they fill that gap.”

Anoka/Washington County Head Start programs serve more than 700 families at their various sites.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]