Head Start provides a range of services to children between the ages of 3 and 5. These services include preschool education, medical assistance, and nutrition services. The program is funded by the federal government, and operates under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the Administration for Children and Families. It was founded in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, and subsequently signed into law as a component of the Economic Opportunity Act.
One of Head Start's primary goals is to involve parents in their children's growth and development through various educational, nutritional, social, and medical services. Particular focus is devoted towards involving parents in local Head Start programs and forming a supportive community.
A complementary program, Early Head Start, was founded in 1995. While Head Start serves children aged 3-5, Early Head Start serves children from birth until age 3.
Head Start programs are free to develop their own curriculum, or adopt curriculum from educational publishers or state agencies. As such, the specifics of Head Start programs vary greatly across different locations. Regardless of the chosen curriculum, all Head Start programs seek primarily to support children's cognitive and linguistic development, particularly in the area of literacy.
Many people confuse Head Start with the state-funded Universal Pre-K programs. Universal Pre-K differs in that it does not determine eligibility for services based on economic need.
Head Start and Early Head Start are need-based programs: children from birth through age 5, whose families fall below the poverty line, are eligible to receive services. For more information, or to enroll your child in the program, call 866-763-6481.