Literature review - Project Head Start – Comprehensive services to family and children

Prepared by Jayasree Narayanaswamy

According to the book that I read about Project Head start, it is mentioned as a project widely popular as a preschool education program. The article points out that the program has in fact reached beyond preschoolers through its vast range of comprehensive social services, health care and educational services to thousands of economically disadvantaged families and children of all ages. It is a program oriented toward child and family development.

The Parent and Child centers (PCC) offer comprehensive health and developmental services to low-income families with children under the age of three. The underlying notion of the PCC was that enrichment from birth to age three would serve to head off the incremental damages of living in poverty. The Child and Family Resource Program (CFRP) offers comprehensive services to children and families from the prenatal period through age eight. The primary goal of CFRP is to provide and integrate the delivery of services to families and children, on an individualized basis, through out early childhood.   Although the actual design of each Head start center depends on the needs of the particular community, the common elements in all centers include

  • Comprehensive health care for the child.
  • Program designed to stimulate the physical, intellectual and emotional development to the maximum potential.
  • Parent activities to strengthen their understanding of child development, competence as family managers, skills related to employment, relationships between parents and children and definition of the male role within the family.
  • Social services to the entire family.
  • Program designed to increase the family’s participation in the neighborhood and the community.
  • Training program for professionals and nonprofessionals

Head start programs also include special services designed for migrant children and children with special needs. The most important of all Head Start efforts is the coordinating role the program has played with respect to other agencies serving families with special needs. Because of this role, Head Start had become an important advocate on behalf of children and families.

The website for Administration for Children and families explains the comprehensive nature of the Head Start program. It is designed to foster healthy development in low-income children. Program grantees and delegate agencies deliver a range of services, responsive and appropriate to each child's and each family's heritage and experience, that encompass all aspects of a child's development and learning. The program serves children from birth to age 5, pregnant women and families. The major focus of the program is in the following areas:

  • Education: Ensuring children enrolled in Head Start begin school ready to learn is a program goal. Activities are directed toward skill and knowledge domains and domain elements. Indicators of each child's progress are incorporated in the program's annual self-assessment.
  • Disabilities: Fully including children with disabilities is a required element of the Head Start program. This initiative is beneficial to all involved: children with and without disabilities, parents of children with and without disabilities, and staff members.
  • Family and Community Partnership: Recognize the vital contributions made by parents and community members. Both groups are involved in the operation, governance and evaluation of the program
  • Health: Wellness is recognized as a significant contributor to each child's ability to thrive and develop. Accordingly, health screenings evaluate the child's overall health status and regular health check-ups and good practices in oral health, hygiene, nutrition, personal care and safety are incorporated in the program.
  • Program Management and operation: focus on delivering high-quality child development services to children from low-income families.


Project Head Start is an exceptional program that caters to the various needs of economically disadvantaged children and their families. The comprehensive nature of the services is quite impressive. As an aspiring teacher, I gained insights regarding the various aspects of this high quality program, which is sensitive to the needs of the children in terms of special needs, health care, family relationships and education. Education during the early years has a profound impact in the life of children. The lifelong benefits are especially noteworthy in the case of economically disadvantaged children.


  1. Edward Zigler, Jeanette Valentine, Project Head start –A legacy of the war on Poverty: pp 350- 355.
  2. Internet source: