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Head Start:
Early Childhood
Learning and Knowledge

MISSION STATEMENT

The Office of Head Start (OHS) advises the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on issues regarding the Head Start program (including Early Head Start). The Office develops legislative and budgetary proposals; identifies areas for research, demonstration, and developmental activities; presents operational planning objectives and initiatives relating to Head Start to the Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Families; and oversees the progress of approved activities. OHS provides leadership and coordination for the activities of the Head Start program in the ACF Central Office including the Head Start Regional Program Units. The Office represents Head Start in inter-agency activities with other Federal and non-Federal organizations.

Early Head Start promotes healthy prenatal outcomes, enhances the development of infants and toddlers, and promotes healthy family functioning.

PURPOSE

Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The Head Start program provides grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families, with a special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school. In FY 1995, the Early Head Start program was established to serve children from birth to three years of age in recognition of the mounting evidence that the earliest years matter a great deal to children's growth and development.

Head Start programs promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. They engage parents in their children's learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs.

PROGRAM SERVICES

  • Early Childhood Development and Health
  • Family and Community Partnerships

Early Childhood Development and Health

Head Start’s commitment to wellness embraces a comprehensive vision of health for children, families, and staff. The objective of Child Health and Development Services is to ensure that, through collaboration among families, staff, and health professionals, all child health and developmental concerns are identified, and children and families are linked to an ongoing source of continuous, accessible care to meet their basic health needs.

The objective of Education and Early Childhood Development is to provide all children with a safe, nurturing, engaging, enjoyable, and secure learning environment, in order to help them gain the awareness, skills, and confidence necessary to succeed in their present environment, and to deal with later responsibilities in school and in life. Each child is treated as an individual in an inclusive community that values, respects, and responds to diversity. The varied experiences provided by the program support the continuum of children’s growth and development, which includes the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of each child.

Family and Community Partnerships

Head Start offers parents opportunities and support for growth, so that they can identify their own strengths, needs and interests, and find their own solutions. The objective of Family Partnerships is to support parents as they identify and meet their own goals, nurture the development of their children in the context of their family and culture, and advocate for communities that are supportive of children and families of all cultures. The building of trusting, collaborative relationships between parents and staff allows them to share with and to learn from one another.

Head Start serves families within the context of the community, and recognizes that many other agencies and groups work with the same families. The objective of Community Partnerships is to ensure that grantee and delegate agencies collaborate with partners in their communities, in order to provide the highest level of services to children and families, to foster the development of a continuum of family centered services, and to advocate for a community that shares responsibility for the healthy development of children and families of all cultures.


 
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