Education staff provide an individualized approach toward assessing a child's need and designing a program to facilitate intellectual, social, physical and emotional growth. Valid and reliable screening and assessment tools are used to help staff and parents understand a child's progress toward school-readiness goals and plan developmentally appropriate learning activities.
A comprehensive health program of medical, dental, mental and disability assessments and services, as well as instruction for the child and family in preventive health practices is provided.
Well-planned, well-balanced meals are served daily in the center-based program, giving children new food experiences, and teach about foods that are nutritionally sound. Nutrition counseling and nutrition information are available to families.
Experiences for parents of Head Start children are included, assuring they are active participants in the classroom, parent group activities, and program decision-making. Parents evaluate the local Head Start Program each spring in accordance with Federal Performance Standards.
Information about community resources and referrals to appropriate agencies/professionals are provided to Head Start families. Each year, Head Start staff help families identify their strengths, assess their needs and establish family goals designed to improve the quality of life.
Head Start is required to have a 10% enrollment of children with disabilities. Statistics show that more than 20% of children enrolled in Missouri Head Start Programs are classified as children with disabilities. Head Start staff assists parent/guardians who suspect developmental delays or other disabilities that may affect their child's learning through referrals, linkages to public schools or other professional agencies, and a full range of developmental services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to provide a free and appropriate public education to eligible children and youth with disabilities.
A mental health professional observes children at least once yearly. Children with atypical behavior or suspected developmental issues may be referred for further evaluation. Counseling referrals are provided as necessary.
ABOUT HEAD START
Project Head Start, launched as an 8 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 very comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. The program has undergone many improvements over the years and has played a major role in focusing the attention of the Nation to the importance of early childhood development.
Studies show that Head Start children perform equal to or better than their peers when they enter public schools and there are fewer grade retentions and special class placements among former Head Start children.
Head Start now serves over 904,000 children and their families each year in urban and rural communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. Since 1965, Head Start has served 27 million children and their families.