This October FFYF celebrates Head Start Awareness Month — an opportunity to share the impact and importance of Head Start and Early Head Start

Since its founding in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Head Start program has served over 35 million low-income children and families. Because of the overwhelmingly positive impact the program has had over the past 5 decades, Head Start and Early Head Start enjoy broad bipartisan support among voters – and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In fact, last week, Congress approved a FY2019 “minibus” appropriations package that includes $260 million in increases to the federal early childhood education programs; including a $200 million increase to funding for Head Start and Early Head Start.

Decades of research shows that participation in Head Start and Early Head Start has both short- and long-term positive effects for 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;
  • Adults who attended Head Start as children are more likely to graduate high school and are better prepared to parents to their own children;
  • Head Start 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.
  • Children in Early Head Start make gains in social-emotional, language, and cognitive development, compared to non-participants;
  • Early Head Start participants who continue to Head Start are more ready for kindergarten, and positive impacts on social-emotional development are sustained through at least fifth grade;
  • Parents’ participation in Early Head Start also improved their parenting skills, including father engagement

Research also shows that Head Start is an important lifeline for rural America. A recent report from the Center for American Progress explores the role that Head Start plays in rural communities, both as an early education program and as a service provider in underserved rural areas.  Without Head Start, many families in rural counties would not be able to enroll their child in a high-quality, center-based child care program, or access important health services. Rural Head Start programs help fill a crucial role in delivering educational, health, and parent education services to families with few other options for assistance.

FFYF is committed to working with stakeholders in the coming months to build upon the robust federal support for early childhood education programs like Head Start and Early Head Start so that all children can access high-quality opportunities that help them reach their full potential.