New York State
Head Start Association
Working Together with Children, Families and the Community.
230 Washington Avenue Extension, Albany, NY 12203
518/452-0897 Fax: 518/452-0898
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About Head Start

Head Start History

Early Head Start

Head Start History
Established by Congress in 1965, Head Start is a federally funded , community based child development program designed to meet the needs of low-income children and their families. Based on strong evidence from research and practice, Head Start's positive track record demonstrates that young children involved in quality early childhood programs are substantially more successful in both school and life environments.
Head Start is the only national program of its kind that utilizes a comprehensive service approach to early childhood education. These comprehensive services include three major areas:

*Early Childhood Development and Health Services
*Family and Community Partnerships
*Program Design and Management

Early Childhood Development and Health Services
Head Start is designed to meet the individual needs of each child. Classroom materials, activities and practices reflect this in two major ways:

*The program curriculum offers a variety of learning experiences which promote optimum intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth and development.
*A variety of teaching techniques are used in Head Start classrooms and teachers' plans allow for flexibility in the program day.
*Preventive health services are central to Head Start's comprehensive array of supports. Early identification of health-related needs ensures that each child receives medical, dental, mental health and nutritional care.

Family and Community Partnerships
The Head Start approach actively involves parents in the program. This is done through:

*Membership on the Policy Council which governs each program
*Home visits by Head Start staff that provide opportunities for parents and staff to learn more about each other and strengthen the home-school connection
*Opportunities for volunteering in the classroom on a regular basis, which foster an understanding of a child's day and learning experiences.
*Parent education activities and programs, planned with parental input, and made available to all Head Start parents.

Head Start provides services that will benefit children and their families. Head Start programs also link families to community resources and services. Some examples are:

*Parent education programs
*Job training and employment opportunities
*Family needs assessments
*English As A Second Language Instruction (ESL)
*Graduate Equivalency Diploma Instruction (GED)
*Emergency assistance and crisis intervention

Program Design and Management
Head Start promotes the development of excellence in program management as the primary support for quality services provided to young children and their families. Programs are required to establish management systems and procedures that are effective for both short and long term success. The implementation of Head Start legislation, regulations and policies is overseen by:

*Policy groups which represent Head Start parents and the community
*Governing bodies which include representatives from Head Start programs and the community

Early Head Start
With the reauthorization by Congress of the Head Start program in 1994, a new program, Early Head Start, was established. This program, based on the same comprehensive service approach to early education as Head Start, serves low-income families, including pregnant women, infants and toddlers.
Research tells us that early intervention provided by high quality programs helps:
*Children to reach their full potential

*Parents to be better caregivers and teachers to their children

* Parents to reach their educational and employment goals

Early Head Start programs provide services through a variety of settings, including home visits and center experiences. These services include:

*Child development and education plans for individual children

* Parent education services

*Early opportunities for children with or without disabilities to grow and develop together in nurturing and inclusive settings

*Supportive assistance to families

* Full-time child care when needed

*Opportunities for parents to make decisions involving program policy and operations

*A continuum of services transitioning from Early Head Start to regular Head Start, child care and other early childhood programs

Inclusive Care and Education
A growing body of evidence from research is demonstrates the benefits young children with disabilities can gain from service delivery in quality educational programs provided in inclusive environments.

Research also tells us that the presence of children with disabilities in early childhood classrooms has a positive impact on the developmental progress of all children. Children with disabilities who receive services in inclusive environments:

*Are less likely to be placed in special education programs or settings in later childhood

* Experience increased opportunities for imitation, role modeling and enhanced social interactions

*Gain significantly in social, emotional and communication skills development

When children with disabilities receive services in settings with non-disabled peers, parents:

*Experience a reduced sense of social isolation

*Are better able to focus on their child's strengths and capabilities

Head Start Program Performance Standards
These standards evolved from the application of research and effective educational approaches by quality early childhood programs. Based on evidence from this research, the program standards guide the operation of all Head Start programs. By adhering to these standards, Head Start programs can ensure early childhood program quality.

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