October 2021 is Head Start Awareness Month. Head Start is a Federal program that provides services to children in low-income families ages 0-5. In addition to serving children in Pre-K classrooms, Head Start also provides services to pregnant women and families.
According to the Official Head Start page, "Head Start programs partner with families to help America’s children succeed in school and in life. Serving more than a million children from birth to 5 each year, Head Start programs are integral contributors to the human services ecosystem in almost every community. The Head Start program is an investment in a child, a family, and a community. This month, the Office of Head Start (OHS) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is highlighting the wide variety of services Head Start programs offer enrolled children and families. At ACF, we work toward an America where children, youth, families, individuals, and communities are resilient, safe, healthy, and economically secure. Join us in celebrating Head Start Awareness Month and the ways Head Start programs partner with other ACF programs to leverage comprehensive services for children and families."
What is Head Start?
Head Start is a preschool program that is provided free of charge to low income US families. Children ages 3-5 can be served in a classroom or home setting, and children 0-3 can participate in Early Head Start as well. Over the years, Head Start has shown to help children perform better in elementary school and beyond. The current Head Start Director, Dr. Bernadine Futrell, is a Head Start Alumni herself, showing just how far a child participating in the program can advance.
According to the First Five Years Fund, "Head Start is a federally funded program that delivers comprehensive early learning, health, nutrition and family support services to children ages 3 through 5 living in poverty and their families."
What do Kids Do in Head Start?
Head Start offers two types of programs. One is in a traditional preschool classroom, the other type offers home visits. According to Denver Great Kids Head Start, the type of activities kids participate in are:
Quality Early Education
Nutrition and Wellness
Inclusive Disability and Mental Health Services
Parent Education and Training
It can be really helpful for children and families to receive all these services in one place, so that if transportation is an issue, they don't have to go to appointments at different places. The goal of the education program is to have kids ready to enter Kindergarten with all of the knowledge and skills required. This includes academic skills, as well as social-emotional skills.
According to Reading Rockets, a typical day at the Head Start program might look like this:
"Most children who enroll in Head Start attend a half-day center-based program. However, some communities may operate a full day program or provide Head Start services through a home-based setting. In a home-based program, staff called Home Visitors teach parents how to provide learning experiences for their own children. Some center-based programs offer children bus rides to and from home.
When the children arrive at the center, they are greeted warmly by their teachers. They put whatever they have brought from home in a place which is their own to use every day.
Classroom time includes many different activities. Some teachers begin the day by asking the children to sit in a circle. This encourages the children to talk about an idea or experience they want to share with others.
In some centers, the children plan their activities. They may choose among art, playing with blocks or table toys, science activities, dancing to music, looking at books, or pretend housekeeping. Children can switch activities if they prefer another challenge.
Each day, they have time to work in a small group with other children and to play outdoors on safe playground equipment.
At lunchtime, children receive a nutritious meal and brush their teeth. All the children are taught to wash their hands before meals, and are encouraged to develop good personal and health habits. If they come for an afternoon session, they also receive a healthy snack."
During the day, the kids can have a balance between learning and fun. This is great for little kids to learn a routine, as well as get to pla and express their creativity during free play times.
Results From the Head Start Program
Head Start has been around for about 50 years now, and has typically shown good results for kids during that time.
According to the First Five Years Fund, "Decades of research shows that participation in Head Start has both short- and long-term positive effects for Head Start children and their families. Children who attend Head Start demonstrate marked academic and social progress and are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Additionally, adults who attended Head Start as children are more likely to graduate high school and are better prepared to be parents to their own children. Head Start also increases parents’ engagement in their children’s learning, and parents whose children attend Head Start are more likely to advance their own education than other parents of at-risk youngsters."
Head Start has good outcomes for children and families, and focuses on teaching parents skills to help their child's education, as well as their own if applicable. Learning good parenting skills can have far reaching implications for kids throughout their lifetime. Good relationships between parents and children can promote resilience in children, which is especially important for children in low-income families who may experience many financial hardships.
How do You Apply to Head Start?
There is an application to fill out to get a child into the Head Start program. It will have your family and your child's personal information. One of the factors of if a child can get into Head Start is based on family income. It is made for low income families, so to enter your child into head start, you will have to provide your income information.
If your family income qualifies for the program, it makes Head Start a great alternative to an expensive childcare facility. Also, you will know that your child is getting an education there too.
You can look up your local information here by typing in your zip code.
Let me know in the comments what you think, if you or any of your family uses Head Start, and if there is additional information you would like me to blog about in the future.