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A Brief History
In 1964, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) established a panel of experts to develop a child development program to meet the needs of children from low-income families. The panel, chaired by Dr. Robert Cooke, included pediatricians, educators, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and psychologists.
The panel recommended that such a program have as its primary goal, the creation of an environmenr in which every child has the maximun opprotunity and support in developing full potential. It was decided that in order to create such an environment, each program must provide extensive health services and social services, in addition to an educational program.
The panel suggested that OEO encourage a variety of programs in accordance with local community conditions and the special needs of children. These recommendations shaped the philosophy and goals of Project Head Start.
Head Start, funded by OEO, began in the summer of 1965. In July 1969, Head Start was delegated by OEO to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). This delegation of Head Start to HEW was designed to strengthen the relationship to other HEW programs for young children. In 1980, HEW was changed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
On January 1, 1998 revised Head Start Performance Standards were implemented in an effort to continually improve the quality and effectiveness of Head Start. Building upon the Performance Standards as a foundation, Head Start utilizes Program Performance Measures to establish outcomes and to provide the highest level of services to children and families.
Branches and Program Options
Head Start programs are administered through through four branches of the Head Start Bureau; Early Head Start, Regional Head Start, Migrant Head Start and American Indian Head Start. Grants are awarded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)through ten regional offices and the Early, Migrant and American Indian Program Branches.
Grantees may choose to implement one or more of the three program options: a center-based program option, a home-based program option or a combination program option. The program option(s) chosen must meet the needs of children and families as indicated by the grantee's Community Assessment.
Content Areas and Services Offered
The daily program for young children is planned to prepare them to take their place in a democratic society. Head Start services are sensitive to each family's ethnic and cultural heritage and appropriate for the developmental age of each child. Experiences with the children are based on the best available knowledge of how children grow and learn. Program objectives are planned cooperatively by parents, staff, community leaders and the children.
Head Start strives for excellence in program management that supports the provision of quality services for children and families. Policy groups, representatives of Head Start parents and the larger community, and a board of directors play a critical role in overseeing the implementation of Head Start legislation, regulations and policies.
Health and Developmental Services
Head Start provides physical and dental exams as well as vision, hearing, developmental and speech screenings for each enrolled child. In cooperation with parents and community professionals, plans are developed and services provided for children with special needs. Parents and children participate in a variety of health education activities. Head Start strives to link the family to an on-going health care system.
Education and Early Childhood Development
Developmentally appropriate activities are provided for infant, toddler and preschool children to help them develop language, socio-emotional, cognitive and physical skills. Activities are provided for parents tp increase their knowledge of child development and early childhood education. Parents and staff form a school readiness partnership to ensure a child is ready and eager to learn in kindergarten.
Child Health and Safety
Staff are trained to respond to medical and dental emergencies. Systems are in place to respond to emergencies such as fire, earthquake, tornado, etc. Policies are in place to prevent the spread of contagious diseases and to address child safety issues. Children must be current or up-to-date on immunizations.
Meals served in centers are planned to meet one-third of the child's daily nutritional needs. All children, including infants and toddlers, receive food appropriate to their nutritional needs, developmental readiness and feeding skills. Children, staff and volunteers eat together family style and share the same menu to the extent possible. Food and nutrition educational activities are provided for chhildren and parents.
Child Mental Health
Activities, services and referrals are provided to promote positive mental health. A mental health consultant is available for Head Start families to obtain individual assistance if requested.
Staff and families work together to identify strengths and needs. Goals are established to help familes access community services. Parents are recognized as the primary educator and advocate for their child and encouraged to be actively involved in program policy making, a wide range of educational activities and community advocacy.
Transition activities include the process of entering into the program, addressing special needs, transition within Head Start and the process of leaving the program. Head Start promotes the continued involvement of parents in the education and development of their child upon transition to public school. Staff provide education and training for parents to prepare thm to exercise their rights and responsibilities in the public school setting.
Staff work closely with community agencies to improve the delivery of community services to families and facilitate the transition of children into Head Start and public schools. Volunteers are an important part of Head Start. They improve and expand services offered and help meet the required non-federal share of matching funds in the Head Start grant. Volunteers are actively recruited to participate in all service areas of Head Start.
Staff work with parents to assist them with their transportation needs through networking within the community. Due to the unique design of the Migrant Head Start program, transportation is provided.
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