About Head Start

In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared The War on Poverty in his State of the Union speech. Shortly thereafter, Sargent Shriver took the lead in assembling a panel of experts to develop a comprehensive child development program that would help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. Among these experts were Dr. Robert Cooke, a pediatrician at John Hopkins University, and Dr. Edward Zigler, a professor of psychology and director of the Child Study Center at Yale University.

Part of the government’s thinking on poverty was influenced by new research of the effects of poverty, as well as on the impact of education. This research indicated an obligation to help disadvantaged groups, compensating for inequality in social or economic conditions. Head Start was designed to help break the cycle of poverty, providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. A key tenet of the program established that it be culturally responsive to the communities served, and that the communities have an investment in its success through the contribution of volunteer hours and other donations as nonfederal share.

In the summers of 1965 and 1966, the Office of Economic Opportunity launched an eight-week Project Head Start. In 1969, under the Nixon administration, 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. Dr. Edward Zigler, who had served on the planning committee to launch Project Head Start, was appointed Director of the Office of Child Development. In 1977, under the Carter administration, Head Start began bilingual and bicultural programs in about 21 states. Seven years later, in October 1984 under the Reagan administration, Head Start’s grant budget exceeded $1 billion. In September of 1995, under the Clinton administration, the first Early Head Start grants were given and in October of 1998, Head Start was reauthorized to expand to full-day ad full-year services. (National Head Start history from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/about/history)

Fresno EOC Head Start History

Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC) Head Start Preschool has successfully provided comprehensive child development services for low-income preschool children and their families since 1965. Services include education, nutrition, health, medical, dental, parental involvement and social services. Expansion of services to children ages 0-3 was implemented in 1996 through the Early Head Start Program. Over 94,899 Head Start Preschool children and 4,736 Early Head Start children and their families have received service from Fresno EOC since the program began in 1965.

The purpose of Fresno EOC Head Start is to promote the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development in two ways:

1.   The learning environment will support children’s growth in language, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, physical skills, emotional function, and approaches to learning; and

2.   Each family will be provided with health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services when necessary based on the family’s needs assessments.

Fresno EOC Head Start Preschool currently serves approximately 3,019 children throughout Fresno County in over 34 centers and 18 Home Base areas.