May 18th marks 56 years since the launch of Project Head Start

May 18, 2021
| Bernadine Futrell, Ph.D., Director, Office of Head Start
Happy Birthday cupcakes

Today, we are celebrating 56 years of Head Start, and 26 years of Early 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. Ever since, Head Start has served as the building block for comprehensive early childhood education and development for children from birth to five and their families.

As director of Head Start, I believe strongly that education is the key to disrupting poverty. Moreover, child development experts have found that early intervention programs like Head Start 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 Early Head Start, migrant and seasonal, American Indian and Alaska Native and our HS-child care partnerships — remains strong, and resilient. I have seen it firsthand as a child enrolled in Head Start.  I was part of it as a Head Start assistant teacher and I have learned so much from this community during my career and most recently from work at the National Association.

The Office of Head Start focuses on the whole child, with comprehensive services from pre-natal care through age five, in the context of their families. Comprehensive Services develop the whole child — cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally. Head Start and Early Head Start programs have prepared millions of children for school and life.

My background experiences tell me that when we come together, we can do more than we can on our own. This is why, tomorrow, we launch Head Start Forward.

Head Start Forward is a campaign to support Head Start grantees in reaching more children and families and getting back to fully in-person comprehensive services as local health conditions allow.

Head Start Forward is an organizing framework to build back better from the pandemic. This campaign honors the experience of Head Start during this pandemic and how we have all been affected in big and small ways. It is also about moving forward together.

Through this campaign, OHS will equip grantees with the information and resources necessary to return to fully operational, comprehensive, in-person services contingent upon CDC guidelines and local health conditions. Together, we experienced the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been forever changed. Together we — as a Head Start community — are moving forward.

The work of the Head Start program is life changing for children, families, and communities.  The American Rescue Plan funding supports Head Start programs on their path to building back better and continuing that life changing work.  This funding presents an incredible opportunity for each grantee to reach more children and families, ensure safe facilities and healthy practices, and support the wellness of the Head Start workforce.

The Head Start Forward campaign if about supporting grantees as we continue to provide services through tough times, national disasters, and a pandemic. Now we’re stepping forward together—and we’re stronger than we’ve ever been because Head Start programs continue to be the nation’s center of innovation and leader in early childhood care and education. Over the last 56 years Visit disclaimer page, Head Start programs have led the field in putting cutting edge research into practice and bringing best practices to scale nation-wide.

Join me in celebrating the Head Start program’s birthday!! 

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