Our Mission: “The Montana Head Start Association brings together families, staff, directors and friends of all Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Montana, to provide leadership, education, information and advocacy on behalf of young children, pregnant women, and families throughout Montana.”
What is Head Start?
Head Start is a federally funded comprehensive child development program that has served low-income families since 1965. These child-focused programs serve children 3 to 5 years of age, and their families with the goal of increasing school readiness of children from low-income families. Head Start provides a range of individualized services in the areas of education and early childhood development; medical, dental, and mental health; nutrition; and parent involvement which are responsive and appropriate to the development, cultural and linguistic heritage and abilities of each enrolled child and family.
Head Start programs provide a learning environment that supports children’s growth in the following domains:
- language and literacy;
- cognition and general knowledge;
- physical development and health;
- social and emotional development; and
- approaches to learning.
Montana has 20 Head Start programs serving preschool aged children.
What is Early Head Start?
The reauthorization of the Head Start Act in 1994 made it possible to establish Early Head Start as a program to serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3, and pregnant women.
Early Head Start provides early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers and their families, and pregnant women.
The Goals of Early Head Start
- To provide safe and developmentally enriching caregiving which promotes the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of infants and toddlers, and prepares them for future growth and development;
- To assist pregnant women with the care and education they need for a healthy pregnancy and birth.
- Montana has 10 Early Head Start programs serving babies and toddlers and pregnant women.
Head Start and Early Head Start Programs seek:
- To support parents in their role as primary caregivers and first, most important teachers of their children and to assist and guide them as they seek to meet personal goals and achieve self-sufficiency.
- To ensure the provision of high quality responsive services to families through the development of trained, and caring staff.
- To build relationships with families that support:
- family well-being and positive parent-child relationships;
- families as learners and lifelong educators;
- family engagement in transitions;
- family connections to peers and community; and
- families as advocates and leaders
- In some communities these two federally funded programs are combined under one grantee as a birth to age five program. In other communities funding has been awarded to different grantees that make every effort to coordinate services for the benefit of the child and family.