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HS History and Facts

Launched in 1965 by its creator and first director Jule Sugarman, Head Start was originally conceived as a catch-up summer school program that would teach low-income children in a few weeks what they needed to know to start kindergarten. Experience showed that six weeks of preschool couldn't make up for five years of poverty. The Head Start Act of 1981 expanded the program. The program was further revised when it was reauthorized in December, 2007. Head Start is one of the longest-running programs to address systemic poverty in the United States.


The Head Start Program is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program's services and resources are designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Head Start programs provide a learning environment that supports children's growth in the following domains: language and literacy; cognition and general knowledge;
physical development and health; social and emotional development; and approaches to learning.

Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to enrolled children and their families, which include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services. Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

Head Start emphasizes the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher. Head Start programs build relationships with families that support: family well-being and positive parent-child relationships; families as learners and lifelong educators; family engagement in transitions; family connections to peers and community; and, families as advocates and leaders.

Over a million children are served by Head Start programs every year, including children in every U.S. state and territory and in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Since 1965, nearly 30 million low-income children and their families have received these comprehensive services to increase their school readiness.

For more information on Head Start, please contact the Office of Head Start.