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Head Start Program

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Submitted By somersch
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In 1964, after ascending to the Office of the President due to the assassination of John f.
Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson launched his Great Society campaign that was designed to eliminate poverty and racial injustice (citation). To accomplish this, the program proposed major spending to address areas such as medical care, urban and transportation issues, and education. One portion of the education reform was a program designed to assist preschool children, ages 3-5, from economically disadvantaged families with a variety of comprehensive services, such as early education, medical, dental, and nutrition assistance. This program was termed “Head Start.” In the last four decades the program has met its goal of assisting numerous disadvantaged youth, but questions have arisen as to whether or not the program has had any real impact on the children as they have grown up.
The Organization
Since its inception in 1965, Head Start has assisted more than 25 million preschool children (Frisvold & Lumeng, 2011, p. 376). Children can be eligible for the program’s assistance if they are at least three years old, the family’s total income is either equal to or less than the poverty guideline, or if the child is disabled or in foster care (Office of Head Start, 2007). Currently, the funding and costs of Head Start restrict the program to only allowing about 55% of eligible children, and these restraints require that a selection process be conducted amongst those eligible to determine which children- the most disadvantaged-will be selected (Frisvold & Lumeng, 2011).
For those who are both eligible and selected, the program offers a multitude of assistance to set young children on a path to educational success. The program’s efforts are best described by The Office of Head start themselves, who state:
Head Start programs promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. They engage parents in their children's learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs (Office of Head Start, 2007).
The Administration
Head Start is administered by the Office of Head Start, or OHS, under the Administration for Children and families, or ACF, which falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS (Office of Head Start, 2007). The OHS oversees grant funding and supervision to the entities that provide the services of Head Start. In addition, the OHS offers federal policy direction and a training system designed to help program administrators with providing services to eligible children (Office of Head Start, 2007).
The OHS is funded through federal appropriations (Frisvold & Lumeng, 2011). In 2013, Head start was appropriated $7,573,095,000, of which $7,278,195,000 was awarded directly to school systems, public agencies, tribal governments, and private non-profit and for-profit 

HEAD START PROGRAM: ADMINISTRATION AND EFFECTIVENESS !4 organizations (Office of Head Start, 2007). The federal program administers funds to State programs, which are further dispensed to local areas within the state. At the local level, Head Start is comprised of a policy council that is a function of the Head Start governing body. The purpose of the council is to provide a system of shared governance through which the caretakers can participate in policy making and program decisions (U.S. Department of Helath & Human Services, 2008). This council is comprised of the parents or caretakers of children enrolled in the program. The council is further staffed by a representative from each classroom using the program, who is elected by the caretakers during parent meetings. Monthly meetings are required, and there is a limit of three years of service per lifetime to the board for the policy council (U.S. Department of Helath & Human Services, 2008).
The Program
Children from disadvantaged families tend to show a delay in school readiness when they reach kindergarten. This delay can initiate a gap in achievement abilities that increases over time and contribute to disproportionate disparities in the attainment of higher education, eventual employment, and earnings potential as an adult (Ryan, Fauth, & Brooks-Gunn, 2006). Head Start was created to bridge these gaps for disadvantaged children by offering services early in childhood that would promote school readiness by the time they reach kindergarten (Office of Head Start, 2007).
To facilitate this, Head Start offers a comprehensive program within which a variety of service exists. These services are mandated according to federal standards (Ryan, Fauth, & Brooks-Gunn, 2006). In addition to offering preschool education, Head Start also ensures that 

HEAD START PROGRAM: ADMINISTRATION AND EFFECTIVENESS !5 its participants receive regular health check-ups and treatment, dental care, and that they receive a hot, nutritious meal every day (What is Head Start, 2015).
The effectiveness of the program has been evaluated at multiple measures with various answers. In 2012 the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a Head Start Impact Study, which documented that the program participants showed extensive gains when they concluded Head Start at age five, but these benefits tapered off by the end of third grade (Vinci, 2012). Head Start proved in the study they were more than accomplishing their short term goals: when its participants reached kindergarten, they had made significant gains in education, social emotional development, and the parents involved in the program demonstrated better discipline use and spent more time engaging with their children (Vinci, 2012). The study also indicated that when the benefits leveled out later in the their elementary school experience, then the long term goal of bridging financial disadvantages later in life was not fully realized (Frisvold & Lumeng, 2011).
Article Assessments
The topic of whether or not the Head Start program had proven effective has been discussed in numerous journal articles.
In the article “Early Head Start home visitation: The role of implementation in bolstering program benefits”, published in 2012 in the Journal of Community Psychology, authors B. Harden, R. Chazan-Cohen, H. Raikes, and C. Vogel hypothesize that official visitation in the homes of program participants ensure long term benefits of the head start program. The authors maintain that home visitation is a key strategy for promoting overall child and family wellbeing. 

The authors cite numerous studies that researched the benefits of home visits to enforce the effectiveness of the Head Start services, and noted these studies have shown that the visits have more of an impact on parents than children (Harden, et al., 2012).
To support their hypothesis, the article cites studies that evaluated the long term effectiveness of the Head Start program when home visitation was a key component in the program’s implementation. Using data that expands over years by following individuals involved in the program from their preschool years into adulthood is a sound research method. The limitations appear in the lack of mention of how many participants with home visitation were studied and did not appear to benefit. The article is well researched and cited, and offers an interesting perspective on how the program can assist not only the children, but their caregivers as well.
The authors N. Baydar, M.Reid, and C. Webster-Stratton offered a similar study in their article “The role of mental health factors and program engagement in the effective of a preventive parenting program for Head Start Mothers”, published in 2003 in the journal Child Developement. This article covers a study of mothers of children in the Head Start program with mental health risk factors, such as depression, substance abuse, and anger, who were provided with engagement and parent training. The authors hypothesized that with the parental training assistance, mothers with mental health issues were able to perform at levels comparable to those mothers who did not exhibit mental health risk factors.
To test their hypothesis, Head Start centers were randomly selected to receive either parental training, or to perform as a control group. Parenting was then measured using a parental 

HEAD START PROGRAM: ADMINISTRATION AND EFFECTIVENESS !7 report and direction observation that would cover three criteria: harsh/negative, supportive/positive, and inconsistent and ineffective. At the conclusion of the study Baydar, Reid, and Webster-Stratton concluded from the information gathered that mothers with mental health risk factors who had undergone the parental training showed parental responses comparable to mothers who did not have risk factors. thus proving their hypothesis.
The study and subsequent article were well crafted as the test subjects were randomly selected, indicating that demographics or regional areas would not be a deciding influence on the outcome. Baydar, Reid, and Webster-Stratton opted to use participants in the Head Start study as they felt it was an “ideal context” for the implementation of early intervention as the population is a high risk for more maladaptive parenting (Baydar, Reid, & Webster-Stratton, 2003, p. 1433). The authors recognized that given the target study group, it would be difficult to ensure steady participation in a parenting program Therefore, they sought to reduce many of the physical and psychological barriers in place by offering meals, flexible hours, transportation, and daycare to encourage continued participation.
By undertaking this study, Baydar, Reid and Webster-Stratton demonstrate that the Head Stat Program has advantages beyond school readiness for disadvantaged children. The program can further assist is fostering better prenatal responses to children and thus reducing the risk of abuse and neglect in some families. The limitations of this study is that the training is only spatially offered, and the benefits can only be realized by parents who are willing to engage in the program.

Another phase of promoting the effectiveness of the Head Start program is offering truing to both parents and teachers of program participants, as discussed in a 2001 article by two of the same authors, C. Webster-Stratton andM. Reid, and M. Hammond. Published in the Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, the study dealt with offering parents and teachers of 4 year old Head Start program participants specific training to thwart conduct issues and social competence problems. The authors hypothesized that by providing training specific to conduct issues in children who were most at risk for behavior disorders through a more comprehensive intervenes with greater focus on parent-teacher bonding, the rate in which behavioral issues manifested could be reduced.
To facilitate the experiment, Head Start program centers were again randomly selected. From these centers, a control group d and a participant group was selected. 272 Head Start motors and 61 Head Start teachers within the participant group received 12 weeks of training that encouraged positive interactions, bonding, classroom management, and social competence. To assess the effectiveness of the training, Webster-Stratton, Reid, and Hammond studied reports of child behavior and conducted independent observations of children both in the home and at their schools. Construct scores were used that combined observational and report data inclusive of negative and positive parenting styles, parent-teacher bonding, and instances of child conduct problems at home and at school, and an additional focus on teacher classroom management style.
At the conclusion of the training, the authors noted that the experimental mothers showed a significant reduction in negative parenting scores and a significantly increased score for positive parenting scores. Child participants also showed a drastic reduction in behavioral 

HEAD START PROGRAM: ADMINISTRATION AND EFFECTIVENESS !9 problems at their schools and homes. These benefits endured when the participants were again studied a year following the initial observation period.
As in the previous study, this one also highlights the extended advantages of the Head Start program, this one by showing how additional training can help curb disciplinary issues in at risk children. By inhibiting behavioral problems at an early age, children can social decorum that will assist them as they advance through their school years and into later stages in life.

Baydar, N., Reid, M. J., & Webster-Stratton, C. (2003). The role of mental health factors and program engagement in the effectiveness of a preventive parenting program for Head Start mothers.
Child Development, 74(5), 1433-1453.
Frisvold, D., & Lumeng, J. (2011). Expanding Exposure. Journal of Human Resources, 46(2), 376.
Harden, B., Chazan-Cohen, R., Raikes, H., & Vogel, C. (2012). Early Head Start home visitation: The role of implementation in bolstering program benefits. Journal of Community psychology, 40(4), 438-455.
Office of Head Start. (2007). Head start program performance standards and other regulations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ryan, R., Fauth, R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2006). Childhood poverty: Implications for school readiness and early childhood education. In B. Spodek, & O. Saracho, Handbook of research on the education of children (2nd ed., pp. 323-346). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2008). 1304.50 Program governance. Retrieved from Head Start: %20governance..htm
Vinci, Y. (2012). Does Head Start work. Retrieved from Reuters: 2012/12/27/does-head-start-work/
Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., & Hammond, M. (2001). Preventing Conduct Problems, Promoting Social Competence: A Parent and Teacher Training Partnership in Head Start. Journal Of Clinical Child Psychology, 30(3), 283-302.
What is Head Start. (2015). Retrieved from Pennsylvania Head Start Association: index.php/head-start-basics/what-is-head-start

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