Happy 56th Birthday, Head Start

On May 18, 2021, we celebrated 56 years of Head Start and 26 years of Early Head Start programs. Here’s more about the history and mission of Head Start from Dr. Bernadine Futrell, Director, Office of Head Start.

On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause of building a “Great Society” by signing into law the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, and Project Head Start was born. Since then, Head Start programs have served as the building block for comprehensive early childhood education and development for children from birth to 5 and their families.

As director of the Office of Head Start (OHS), I believe strongly that education is the key to disrupting poverty. Moreover, child development experts have found that Head Start and other early intervention programs significantly affect the cognitive and socio-emotional development of children from low-income backgrounds. Under the Biden-Harris administration, the American Rescue Plan Act provides $1 billion to support the immediate and ongoing needs of existing local Head Start and Early Head Start programs to resume and maintain quality early childhood education and services that encourage safe and healthy development.

The Head Start community — including Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant and Seasonal, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs — remains strong and resilient. I have seen it firsthand as a child enrolled in a Head Start program. I was part of it as a Head Start assistant teacher and through my work at the National Association, and I have learned so much from this community during my career.

OHS focuses on the whole child, with comprehensive services from prenatal care through age 5, in the context of their families. Comprehensive services develop the whole child — cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally. Head Start programs have prepared millions of children for school and life. Over the last 56 years, Head Start programs have led the field in putting cutting-edge research into practice and bringing best practices to scale nation-wide.

To learn more about OACAC’s Head Start/Early Head Start program, give us a call at (417) 864-3430 or visit https://oac.ac/head-start/.