Head Start Program in Montgomery County

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The Head Start program in Montgomery County as a Social Welfare Agency

General History of Head Start

Head Start is a federal funded program that supports school readiness for children from the time they are born, to the age of five from low-income families by expanding their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start is one of the few programs that is still thriving from the 1960s. It is administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and began in the summer of 1965 as part of the Lyndon Johnson administration’s war on poverty. The goal of Head Start is to end generational poverty, by offering preschool education to children from low-income families. “Generational poverty is defined as having been in poverty for at least two generations; however, the patterns begin to surface much sooner than two generations if the family lives with others who are from generational poverty” (Payne, 2006, p.48). Children born to poor and uneducated parents are very likely to fail in school and therefore, fail in life, and the program objective is to end that pattern. The program provides a complete educational plan to fulfill the emotional, social, nutritional and psychological needs of these children (“History of Head Start,” 2011).

History of Head Start in Montgomery County
In Montgomery County, Head Start began 40 years ago. It started as a partnership between government (Community Action Agency), which is the grantee and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), which is the delegate. The program in the county is unique, because three and four years old children are served in the school system. MCPS, in partnership with Early Childhood Education, serves younger children in other settings such as daycares, families’ homes, etc. Its uniqueness is based on the excellent focus on education that Montgomery County aims to provide to the students. In the county, Head Start uses the MCPS curriculum and instructional program to teach their students, but it varies in length, due to federal Head Start requirements. The program operates 5 days a week, usually for 3.25 hours daily. However, 10 Full Day Head Start classes follow full day school schedule. One of the federal government requirements is that each class cannot have more than 20 students. Classes are located in some of the elementary schools throughout the county, and in all title I schools, which are schools where the majority of the student population has achieved a very high level of education, and for that accomplishment, the county rewards the school with more money to continue acquiring a high rank in the state assessments. Teaching teams consist of a certified teacher, and a paraeducator. They use an interdisciplinary, whole-child approach with an emphasis on language, literacy, and mathematics. All children participate in art, music, physical education, and field trips. Parents are encouraged to work with the staff during home visits to receive parental support, and outreach activities. Free transportation is offered for all the student population. Children with identified ESOL needs and identified disabilities are also served in this program and are provided with additional support services.

Services Evolved since the Beginning of the Program
The agency and its services have evolved since the 1980s due to the massive amount of immigration to the United States, which has altered the poverty population. In the beginning, the program used to serve mostly English speakers, especially the black population, and a few white individuals. However, the program’s current population is Hispanics and African American immigrants. Therefore, the program now serves more immigrants and non-English speakers. In 1996, the welfare reform changed the way mothers and children were assisted. The program also changed due to the restrictions imposed on the low-income families to receive welfare and the push for...
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