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Why Head Start is Still One of the Most Successful Social Programs in the U.S.

“Five-and six-year-old children are inheritors of poverty's curse and not its creators. Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation.”

– President Lyndon Johnson

Head Start is a federally funded program in the United States that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, and nutrition services to low-income families with children under the age of five. The program began as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" initiative in 1965. It was initially designed as an eight-week summer program to help prepare low-income children for school. However, the program was so successful that it was expanded and made into a year-round program in 1969. Since then, Head Start has served more than 37 million children from birth to age 5 and their families. across the United States, and it has become one of the world's most successful and well-known early childhood programs. The first Early Head Start grants were awarded in 1995 to serve low-income pregnant women and children ages birth to 3.

At BCT Partners, we are committed to accelerating equity and are honored to have the Office of Head Start and Head Start grant recipients as one of our long-standing clients. The program continues to be one of the best social investments the U.S. has ever made.

1. Long-term Benefits: Research has shown that children participating in Head Start programs are more likely to succeed in school and less likely to drop out, require special education services, or be involved in the criminal justice system. Research also shows that children who attend Head Start have better health outcomes, such as lower rates of hospitalization and improved nutrition.

2. Return on Investment: The economic benefits of Head Start are substantial. Studies have shown that for every dollar invested in Head Start, there is a return on investment of between $7 and $9 in economic and social benefits. These benefits come from increased earnings, reduced crime, and improved health outcomes.

3. Advantages for Families: Head Start provides a range of support to families, including health screenings, education, and social services. These programs can help families improve their economic and social well-being. For example, Head Start provides parents access to job training and connects families with community resources. And it also helps parents become more involved in their children's education, providing them with the necessary resources to ensure their growth and development.

4. Long-term Benefits: Head Start provides a strong foundation for children's future success at a relatively low cost. Investing in early childhood education and prevention is much cheaper than trying to remediate problems later in life.

5. Equity and Social Justice: Head Start plays an important role in promoting equity and social justice. Providing access to high-quality early childhood education and services for low-income families who might not otherwise have access, it helps to level the playing field for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Several other federally funded programs were developed to provide comprehensive services for families. They include:

1. Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): CCDBG is a federally funded program that enables states to help low-income families access affordable childcare services. The program also includes health and safety requirements, professional development, and training for childcare providers.

2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): This federal program provides cash assistance and other supportive services to low-income families with children. The program aims to help families achieve self-sufficiency through employment, education, and training opportunities.

3. Home Visitation Programs: This program provides home-based services to pregnant women and families with young children to support their health, development, and well-being. They typically include regular visits from trained professionals who provide guidance and support on various topics, such as parenting, child development, and health and nutrition.

In summary, these federally funded programs, like Head Start, recognize the importance of providing comprehensive services to support the development and well-being of children and families, enabling them to build a foundation for long-term success. And the money for these programs is a well-spent investment because it enables children from low-income families to receive the best possible start in life, which has long-term benefits for them and for society.

To learn more about how BCT Partners helps our clients address inequities, click here.

To read more BCT blogs, click here.


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