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Head Start: A Comprehensive Child Development Program

Broadly the objectives of Head Start are based on the idea that children deserve the opportunity to enter school ready to learn and that children’s readiness depends on their educational experience, their physical and mental health and the involvement of their parents and families.

The following are objectives of Head Start:

  • The improvement of the child’s health and physical abilities, including appropriate steps to correct present physical and mental problems and to enhance every child’s access to an adequate diet. The improvement of the family’s attitude toward future healthcare and physical abilities.
  • The encouragement of self-confidence, spontaneity, curiosity and self-discipline which will assist in the development of the child’s social and emotional health.
  • The enhancement of the child’s mental processes and skills with particular attention to conceptual and communications skills.
  • The establishment of patterns and expectations of success for the child, which will create a climate of confidence for present and future learning efforts and overall development.
  • An increase in the ability of the child and the family to relate to each other and to others.
  • The enhancement of the sense of dignity and self-worth within the child and his or her family.

Early Head Start is responding to strong evidence suggesting that early intervention through high quality programs enhances children's physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development: enables parents to be better caregivers and teachers to their children; and helps parents meet their own goals, including economic independence. Early Head Start programs are designed to reinforce and respond to the unique strength and needs of each child and family.

These services include:

  • Quality early education both in and out of the home;
  • Home visits, especially for families with newborns and other infants;
  • Parent education, including parent-child activities;
  • Comprehensive health and mental health services, including services to women before, during, and after pregnancy;
  • Nutrition; and
  • Ongoing support for parents through case management and peer support groups.


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