After having declared his "War on Poverty" in January of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson teamed with Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to JFK, to gather academics and civil rights activists to work on a program for low-income children. In 1965 Johnson announced Project Head Start, a summer program throughout the United States that would assist those children who were to attend school in the fall with school readiness. Under the administration of Jimmy Carter bilingual education was added. Later, under the Clinton administration, Head Start programs were extended from only summer time programs to year-round services. Most recently reauthorized in 2007, Head Start was afforded several provisions to increase the quality of instruction, among which are the alignment of school readiness goals with state learning standards, a demand for higher qualifications for the teaching workforce of Head Start, increased program monitoring, such as reviews of child outcomes, and annual financial audits and State Advisory Councils. In 2009, with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, there was the addition of more than 64,000 slots for both Early Head Start and Head Start programs.
The goals of Head Start involve serving underprivileged children to be able to compete when they attend school, by utilizing various approaches to learning, increasing children's general knowledge of things, assisting in the physical development and health of children through exercise and good nutrition, and assisting in the emotional and social growth of children.
Serving preschool-age children and their families, Head Start programs also provide Early Head Start, which serves infants, toddlers, pregnant women and their families who have incomes below the federal poverty level. In order to do so, there are
- Healthy pre-natal care and instruction of parenting
- centers/schools that children attend for part-day or full-day services such reading readiness, daycare, social skills, general knowledge and problem-solving.
- childcare services for low-income families, homeless children, and migrant children where they learn songs and rhymes that teach them manners and socialization skills
- children's own homes, where a staff person visits once a week to provide services to the child and family. Children and families receiving home-based services often join with other enrolled families for group learning that is facilitated by Head Start staff members.
- Parent services that instruct parents in child-rearing, help launching parents into new careers, help in increasing the self-esteem of those who are poor
One mother, Lourdes Villanueva, says this,
"As a parent you come in not knowing, I mean you just go
thinking that they're just gonna teach them something and keep them safe. But it was really
much more than that. I mean they started inviting you to parent meetings, inviting you to parent
trainings, and it was, you know, just one of those things that I felt that I was learning just as much
as the kids were.
Edgiton Farquard adds,
"It's a place where I know my grandson is going to be nurtured. I
know that any and all doors are open for him!"