Recognition & Response - Head Start
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Head Start
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Since 1965, the Head Start (HS) program has sought to combat poverty in America by providing children ages three to five with a comprehensive set of services in one program with the overall goal of increasing school readiness of young children.  Head Start services include: health, education, social services, and parent-community involvement for all eligible children and their families. In addition, the entire range of Head Start services is responsive and appropriate to each child's and family's developmental, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage and experience.

In 1994, Congress authorized the Early Head Start program for pregnant women, infants and toddlers. It provides parent education and services such as home visits, comprehensive health services, nutrition, and peer support groups. Early Head Start projects coordinate with local Head Start programs so that children have a continuity of services as they grow older.

All Head Start programs must adhere to nationally defined Program Performance Standards which define the services that Head Start Programs are to provide to the children and families they serve. And, as of 2003, Head Start teachers must hold an associate, baccalaureate, or advanced degree in Early Childhood Education or a degree in a related field, with pre-school teaching experience. If a classroom does not have a teacher with these requirements, the teacher must have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or a State awarded certificate for preschool teachers that meets or exceeds the requirements of a CDA credential.

Funding for HS goes directly from the federal government to local grantees. The federal government provides 80 percent of the yearly cost to operate a Head Start program, and the remaining 20 percent must come from a “local match” or “in-kind” contributions, which may be in the form of monetary contributions, donations of goods or services, or volunteer hours. Head Start programs serve children in families earning income at or below the federal poverty level, which for a family of four is $19,350 during fiscal year 2005.

The Head Start program is administered by the Head Start Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

For more information, contact: 
Head Start Bureau
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Phone: (202) 401-9215

National Head Start Association
1651 Prince Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone 703-739-0875
Fax 703-739-0878

For additional information about early childhood policy and programs, go to the Readings and Resources section. was developed and is managed by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, which is solely responsible for its content.
Funding was made possible by grants from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and the Cisco Systems Foundation.

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