Head Start and Early Head Start are comprehensive child development programs, serving children from birth to age five, expectant mothers and families. The overall goal of Head Start is to increase the social competence of children in low-income families and children with disabilities, and improve the chances of success in school.
Head Start has been a pioneer in the movement to address the needs of the whole child, including the educational, vocational and material needs of the entire family. Head Start philosophy holds that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that successful child development programs must involve and empower parents in order to have a lasting impact on the lives of low-income children. This philosophy is reflected in Head Start's administrative structure which includes a parent Policy Council that has decision-making authority.
Head Start began in 1965 and has been recognized through seven presidential administrations for its effectiveness in helping children become more self-confident and successful. Though federally-funded, each program is required to provide a 20 percent local funding match. This nationwide program works through several major areas, including education, health and nutrition, parent involvement and social services. There have been Head Start programs in North Dakota since 1965.
North Dakota has 14 Head Start and nine Early Head Start programs in communities across the state. For the 2016-2017 school year, 3,170 children are enrolled in Head Start, while 747 children are being served in Early Head Start.
The basic elements of Head Start are regulated through federal Program Performance Standards. Grantees and parents have control over their programs, and each is designed to meet the needs of families in the local community.