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Do You Know the Origins of Head Start?

Posted on Category General, Opportunities, Stories

Head Start and Early Head Start programs are free, federally funded programs designed to promote school readiness for children from families of low-income. Early Head Start serves pregnant women and families with children under age 3. Head Start programs serve children between 3 and 5 years old. 

These programs are part of what makes Community Action Marin a critical resource in Marin County. As the county’s Head Start grantee and largest provider of subsidized state-funded childcare, the agency’s team supports well-being for families every day.  

Teachers and members of the Children and Family Services team promote active parent involvement through regular visits to the child’s home, create regular opportunities for parents to volunteer in the program, and lead special activities—all on top of a comprehensive, high-quality early education program. Head Start and Early Head Start programs also link children and families to other services in the community. 

Origins of Head Start 

Head Start programs have their start in 1964, when President Johnson declared a “war on poverty.” About one-third of Community Action Agencies nationally run Head Start, so our agency is part of a network of support and advocacy for high-quality childcare across the country.  

Back in the 60s, the federal government was influenced by new research on the effects of poverty, as well as its impact on early education. This research indicated an obligation to help groups not traditionally served by government programs, compensating for inequality in social or economic conditions. Experts came together to develop a comprehensive child development program that would help communities meet the needs of preschool children living in poverty. 

The Head Start program officially began in 1965 as an eight-week demonstration project designed to help break the cycle of poverty, It provided preschool children from low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and educational needs. A key tenet of the program established that it be culturally responsive to the communities served, and that the communities have an investment in its success through the contribution of volunteer hours and other donations as non-federal share. 

Further program growth and improvements have occurred regularly since, all with the goal to strengthen Head Start quality. Head Start programs have served more than 36 million children since 1965. Currently, Head Start grants are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Today, Head Start programs serve over 1 million children and their families.  

Ensuring Family Well-Being in Marin County 

Community Action Marin serves as Marin County’s Head Start grantee and direct operator. The agency is also the county’s largest provider of state-subsidized childcare. What does this mean?  

At CAM, we offer robust and comprehensive early childhood education services that are free or affordable, depending on a family’s eligibility.  

Our agency’s team ensures that children ages 0-5 from families of low-income get access to comprehensive nutrition, health, and early education services to ensure their well-being. We partner with families daily to identify strengths, needs, interests, and goals. These supports help families, foster parent-child relationships, and connect parents to peers for information sharing and support. Through our Policy Council, we also assist parents in becoming advocates for their children and to be leaders in their community. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, the agency’s Children and Family Services team partnered with about 44% of all income-eligible Head Start families in the county:  

  • 91 children in Head Start  
  • 53 children in Early Head Start  
  • 13 pregnant mothers 

We are now accepting applications for our childcare programs! If your family is eligible for services and we do not have space, we will place your child on our wait list.  

Visit our website or email us at [email protected] to learn more. We invite you to learn more about all of Community Action Marin’s Children and Family Services.