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What is Head Start?

24 July 2013

The Head Start program strives to help millions of low-income families pay for child care. It promotes healthy lifestyles for both children and their families by allowing parents to pursue careers by lessening the burden of child care costs. It also promotes healthy children. Each child is screened by a healthcare professional within the first 45 days of the program. Participants are given free, quality health services. All programs within Head Start are multilingual.

What are Head Start programs all about?

A 2010 report by the Department of Health and Human Services found the Head Start program had the most positive impact on children involved with the program throughout their preschool years. The main focuses of the program are on:
• Health: both physical and developmental
• Each child’s approach to learning
• Literacy and language: all Head Start programs are multilingual
• Emotional development and social interaction
• Cognitive processing and general knowledge

Who runs Head Start programs?

A variety of care centers may be involved with or operate Head Start organizations. Some of these types include:
• Schools
• Part-time educational centers
• Family-run, in-home child care
• Individual children’s homes (Those who opt for this option must have a Head Start staff member check in weekly. They must also meet in a group setting with other families of individual children enrolled in the Head Start programs occasionally.)

Head Start’s History

Head Start originally started as an eight-week summer program in 1965 and 1966 after the government resolved to make efforts to break the cycle of poverty. In 1969, under the Nixon administration, Project Head Start gained momentum, beginning bilingual programs in 21 states. Today, Head Start reaches over one million children each year. It has branches in both urban and rural setting throughout the country.


In order to qualify for a Head Start Program, families must meet the following guidelines:
• Head Start assists children from birth through the age of 5 years old.
• Financially, local program staff chooses qualifiers, but the federal poverty line is a good guideline. Generally, if a family is below the line, and often is they qualify for other types of financial government aid, they make good Head Start candidates.
• Homeless families, children in foster care and those receiving TANF or SSI will likely qualify for Head Start.

Click here to find the closest Head Start Program to you!

-“Head Start” http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc
-NHSA: http://www.nhsa.org/services/find_a_head_start_program
-“Head Start Impact Study Final Report” http://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1108HeadStartImpact.pdf
-“Head Start Impact: Department of Health and Human Services Report” http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/civil-rights/head-start-study/

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