In 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity launched Project Head Start as an eight-week summer program. Head Start was part of the War on Poverty, which embodied a basic belief in education as the solution to poverty. Head Start 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. At that time, part of the new government thinking on the nature of poverty and the uses of education, and born of the civil-rights movement, was that the government was obligated to help disadvantaged groups in order to compensate for inequality in social or economic conditions. The concept of “maximum feasible participation” represented a new philosophy in federal government that low income people should help plan and run their own programs. Education, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents enthusiastically received Head Start across the nation and recruited children age three to school entry age.
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. It has now become a program within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start serves many American Indian, migrant farm worker, urban and rural children and families in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Pacific Insular Areas.
OFB Head Start (OFBHS) is an early childhood program serving low-income children in the rural communities of Broome County.
OFBHS began as one of a number of anti-poverty programs under the CAP of Opportunities for Broome, Inc. (OFB) in 1981. We began with two classrooms in the basement of an Endicott church. Over the past twenty four years these two classrooms have grown to fifteen classrooms in four Head Start centers located in Harpursville, Endicott, Whitney Point and Windsor. We serve the school districts of Chenango Forks, Chenango Bridge, Deposit, Harpursville, Maine-Endwell, Union-Endicott, Vestal, Whitney Point, and Windsor.
The programs offered to our families include part day Head Start and Universal Pre-K classes. Collaborations with school district operated Universal Pre-K programs in our centers allow children to access full day programming, at no cost to their families. In addition, our Endicott Center is with The Handicapped Children’s Association, who provides integrated placement for special needs children. These wonderful classrooms give children with special needs the opportunity to learn alongside their more able peers, who in turn, learn from them.
We serve low income pre-school children ages 3-5. It is our hope that soon we will also be able to serve the infant/ toddler/expectant mom population, bringing the Head Start philosophy, experience and support to families even sooner.
The Impact of Head Start
Head Start has played a major role in focusing the attention of the Nation on the importance of early childhood development, especially in the first five years of life. In many ways, the program has had a dramatic impact on child development and day care services; on the expansion of State and local activities for children; on the range and quality of services offered to young children and their families; and on the design of training program for those who staff such programs.
The program has led in efforts to improve the cognitive abilities of young children. Studies have indicated that Head Start children score higher than comparable non-Head Start children in preschool achievements tests that measure these abilities. The studies also show that Head Start children perform equal to or better than their peers when they enter regular school, and there are fewer grade retentions and special class placements.
The outreach and training efforts of Head start programs have helped provide low-income parents with the knowledge and service they need to build a better life for their children. Direct involvement of parents in Head Start planning and policy-making has given families an active role in their child’s education in how those services are provided. This participation has influenced school systems across the county to do likewise.
Head Start has had a special impact on community efforts for low-income families. A study of 58 communities with full-year Head Start programs showed that the programs had influenced local educational and health institutions to become more responsive to the needs of low-income families. As a result of Head Start activities, for the first time many school districts revised curricula to place more emphasis on the needs of minorities; health institutions changed services and schedules to serve the low-income more effectively; there was increased participation by low-income individuals in policy-making decisions; and employment of local people in para-professional jobs was stepped up. All of these are major Head Start goals.
Features of the Program
Head Start’s educational program is designed to meet each child’s individual needs. It also aims to meet the need of the community served and its ethnic and cultural characteristics. If programs have a majority of bilingual children, for example, at least on teacher or aide must speak their native language.
Every child receives a variety of learning experiences to foster intellectual, social, and emotional growth. Children participate in indoor and outdoor play and are introduced to the concepts of words and numbers. They are encouraged to express their feelings and to develop self-confidence and the ability to get along with others.
Head Start offers:
-Activities that help children grow mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically
-The help for children to socialize, solve problems, and have experiences that build self-confidence
-Skilled healthcare treatment, arrangement of hearing and vision tests, and immunizations
-Mental health and other services for children and families with special needs
-Nutritional meals for children
-The teaching of good personal hygiene habits
-Counseling for parents, children, and families
-Training in proper nutrition, health, hygiene, and child rearing practices
-Referrals for continuing adult education and employ ability status
-Participation in home visits and center activities
-Gaining leadership skills by involvement with committees and boards
Medical and Dental | Establishing medical and dental homes is a priority for OFBHS. On site dental prevention service is provided for all Head Start children. Children also receive hearing, vision and nutrition screenings with appropriate referrals and resources offered to families when needed.
Nutrition | Meal time is an extension of learning by modeling language, conversation, social interaction and introducing new foods. The menu integrates the latest nutritional research so families are offered the healthiest meals possible. OFB works with all families to ensure that their cultural needs are valued and special diets are accommodated for.
Mental Health | A mental health professional is available to every Head Start program to provide mental health services for children and families. Ongoing training and support ensures that OFB provides high quality classroom environments that foster success, safety and wellness for each child.
Participation in Decision Making | Parents are the most important influence on a child’s development. An essential part of our program is the involvement of parents in program planning and operating activities. Many serve as members of Policy Councils and Committees and have a voice in program design.
Respect for the uniqueness of each family drives the work of family service staff as it builds relationship with families and works on parent-generated goals. Family service staff provide resources and referrals, crisis intervention, opportunities for community involvement and support to develop literacy, leadership and employment skills.
Head Start’s Policy Council, a parent decision-making body helps plan and develop goals for the program, approve various policies, hiring, budgets and work plans.
We also have a diverse Board of Directors. Nine members are active in the strategic direction of Head Start with a focus of serving all age, income eligible children in Broome County.
Children between the ages of 3 and 4 whose family’s income falls within our income guidelines. For more information about OFB Head Start, please call (607) 772-6810.