About Head Start and Early Head Start

A National Commitment

The premise of Head Start and Early Head Start is simple: every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to reach their full potential.

When Head Start was first launched in 1965, the idea of providing comprehensive health, nutrition, and education services to children in poverty was revolutionary, if not radical. The Head Start Model, developed over the decades has been built on evidence-based practices and is constantly adapting – using the best available science and teaching techniques to meet the needs of local communities.

Flash forward 50 years, President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address called for more focused and dedicated work to ensure vulnerable children and families have access to high-quality care and education in their earliest years. His FY2016 budget, included a commitment to expand and strengthen child care and early education programs, specifically increasing the duration of Head Start to a full school day and year. Clearly, providing early learning opportunities for at-risk children has become not only a focal point for lawmakers but a shared national commitment.

Head Start and Early Head Start is the national commitment to give every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, an opportunity to succeed in school and in life. In the 50 years since its inception, Head Start has improved the lives of more than 32 million children and their families. Head Start and Early Head Start alumni – or “Head Start babies,” as they often call themselves – are in all walks of the nation’s life.

Educators, doctors, lawyers, military personnel, artists, engineers, religious and civic leaders, and scientists – from all across the country – remember Head Start and Early Head Start as the place where, at an early age, they acquired a life-long love of learning.

Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program. Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services.

In addition to life and school preparedness, Head Start and Early Head Start is also the nation’s laboratory for early learning innovation. Head Start and Early Head Start offer a unique whole child/whole family program design coupled with a delivery system that includes local programs, national standards, monitoring, professional development, and family engagement. This has been the basis for many subsequent statewide and community initiatives.

 

The Whole Child

Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer an ideal laboratory for the study of effective child development and learning. The Department of Health and Human Services funds extensive research every year that reinvigorates practices, ensuring that programs meet children’s needs by creating a deep understanding of how they learn and what supports healthy development. Children enter Head Start and Early Head Start with serious socioeconomic disadvantages that can hold them back for life.

 

The Whole Family

Head Start and Early Head Start supports families facing difficult circumstances and seeks to mitigate obstacles to learning in the early years.

What makes the whole child and whole family model so powerful? Nobel-prize winning economist James Heckman has suggested that the social-emotional development cultivated by programs may be the true contributor to long-term impacts, and health benefits which range from decreased child mortality to adult health behaviors. Furthermore, additional motivators behind children’s success through elementary school and beyond are very likely parents. By helping families who are struggling with poverty and other socio-economic challenges achieve their goals for education, employment, and housing, Head Start and Early Head Start plays a transformative role across two generations.  

 

What are the components of a Head Start and Early Head Start program?

Head Start and Early Head Start takes a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of young children. There are four major components to Head Start and Early Head Start:

  • Education: Providing a variety of learning experiences to help children grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
  • Health: Providing health services such as immunizations, dental, medical, and mental health, and nutritional services, and early identification of health problems.
  • Parent Involvement: Involving parents in the planning and implementation of activities. Parents serve on policy councils and committees that make administrative decisions; participate in classes and workshops on child development; and volunteer in the program.
  • Social Services: Provide outreach to families to determine what services they need.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. In addition to education services, programs provide children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services. Head Start services are responsive to each child and family’s ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

Head Start and Early Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child’s first and most important teachers. Programs build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community. Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Three- and 4-year-olds made up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start last year.

Local services are delivered by about 1,700 public and private nonprofit and for-profit agencies. These agencies receive grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Head Start and Early Head Start agencies design services for children and families that meet the needs of their local community and the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Some cities, states, and federal programs offer funding to expand Head Start and Early Head Start to include more children within their communities.

Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Programs may be based in centers, schools, or family child care homes. Early Head Start services are provided for at least six hours per day, whereas Head Start preschool services may be half-day (four hours) or full-day. Another program option is home-based services, in which a staff person visits children once a week in their own home and works with the parent as the child’s primary teacher. Children and families who receive home-based services meet twice monthly with other enrolled families for a group learning experience facilitated by Head Start and Early Head Start staff.

 

Nevada Head Start

Nevada Annual Funding: $33+ million
Funded Enrollment: 3,100+
AIAN Funding: $3.5 million
AIAN Enrollment: 360+

The total population of Nevada is 2.8 million—and more than two-thirds live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.  The tourism industry remains Nevada’s largest employer—and this has a significant influence on the well-being of families who are employed in service-related industries.

Another vastly rural state where the Head Start programs are concentrated nearer the larger cities, Nevada has an estimated 46,000 children in poverty under age five. Of those, only 14% of three- and four-year olds had access to Head Start. And only 2% of children under three had access to Early Head Start.

Just seven Head Start grantees or sub-grantees provide services to 3,100 children and support a total enrollment of more 3,100 adults in adult education, workforce training, parenting and dual-language classes.

Check-out the 2016 Nevada Head Start Profile.