head start

EDUCATION — Riley paints in her Head Start class at Bona Vista Programs.

Head Start is a national initiative to provide health and education services to underprivileged or impoverished children since its inception in 1965, housed under the umbrella of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a department of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In October, we celebrate this program and the impact it has had on our children, families, the American socio-economic climate and our work force.

The idea for the program was spearheaded by President Lyndon Johnson declaring a war on poverty in 1964. Research identified a correlation between lower educational standards and generational poverty, so this program was developed in order to address the national struggle with each. “The Head Start program 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,” summarizes the Office of Head Start website.

The package of services that Head Start offers is presented in a preschool setting, but there are so many more facets to the program than just education. The goal is that the Head Start program will also evaluate, support and foster the growth of each child’s development in a comprehensive manner. This entails meeting with the family in the home environment to support the child’s caregivers.

Bona Vista is an Early Head Start center providing care for low income pregnant women and, then, their children up to their third birthday. Included in the program are free home visits with a child development specialist, daytime child care Monday through Friday, as well as meals, snacks and diapers. Bona Vista offers support to parents to address their child’s developmental milestones and needs.

Bailley Maxwell, Early Childhood Director at Bona Vista, has a well-rounded perspective of the services provided by Early Head Start. "I am proud to say that I have worked with Early Head Start as a teacher and administrator for many years,” Maxwell said. “However, I was also an Early Head Start parent. My oldest child went through our program from 8 weeks to her third birthday. During our time enrolled in the program, my husband and I were able to work collaboratively with her teachers to make sure she was developing and learning. It was empowering as a parent to be able to advocate for my daughter's needs and have the support of her amazing teacher. I have learned so much as a Head Start professional, but I also gained even more learning as a parent. I am so thankful for the invaluable gift that Bona Vista's Early Head Start has given to our family."

Please join the Bona Vista Early Childhood department in celebrating October as Head Start Awareness Month. For more information about the Early Head Start program at Bona Vista please visit www.bonavista.org or call 765-457-8273.