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History, Goals and Values

History of Project Head Start

In 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity launched Project Head Start as an eight-week summer program. Head Start was part of the War on Poverty, which embodied a basic belief in education as the solution to poverty. Head Start was designed to help break the “cycle of poverty” by providing preschool children of low income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs. At that time, part of the new government thinking on the nature of poverty and the uses of education, and born of the civil-rights movement, was that the government was obligated to help disadvantaged groups in order to compensate for inequality in social or economic conditions. The concept of “maximum feasible participation” represented a new philosophy in federal government that low income people should help plan and run their own programs. Education, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents enthusiastically received Head Start across the nation and recruited children age three to school entry age.

In 1969, Head Start was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It has now become a program within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start serves many American Indian, migrant farm worker, urban and rural children and families in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Pacific Insular Areas.

Head Start has grown from the eight-week demonstration project to include full day/year services and many program options. Families with children birth to age 3 have been served in Head Start since at least 1967 by Migrant/Seasonal Head Start and Parent Child Centers, however in the mid-1990’s, birth to age 3 services were formalized and expanded with the inception of Early Head Start.

My Head Start involvement has taught my daughter & myself there are many different people who care for us & share with us. People that teach us the good, not the bad. It’s a wonderful program for children to learn to share, play with others, learn A-B-C & 1-2-3’s. I know my daughter loves to come to school & looks forward to it every day.

–PACT Head Start Parent