Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

History of Head Start

In 1964, the Federal Government asked a panel of child development experts to draw up a program to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. The panel report became the blueprint for Project Head Start. Project Head Start, launched as an eight-week summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965, was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs. Recruiting children age three to school entry age, Head Start was enthusiastically received by education, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents across the Nation. Head Start serves children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories, including many American Indians and migrant children.

In 1969, Head Start was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and has now become the Office of Head Start, within the Administration on Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start grants are awarded by the Regional Offices of Head Start and the Office of Head Start's American Indian - Alaska Native and Migrant and Seasonal Program Branches directly to local public agencies, private organizations, and Indian Tribes and school systems for the purpose of operating Head Start programs at the community level.

Although Head Start is thought to be one program by much of the public, Head Start actually consists of two programs: Head Start and Early Head Start. Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood development program primarily serving low-income preschool-age children and their families while Early Head Start was established during the 1994 Reauthorization of Head Start. Early Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood program serving primarily low-income children prenatal to age 3, pregnant women, and their families.