Head Start is the most important social and educational investment in children, families, and communities the United States has ever undertaken. The Head Start Project was launched in 1965 as a comprehensive child development program. Over the last six decades, it has provided a window of opportunity to more than 37 million vulnerable children and their families.

Happy Birthday, Head Start! In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson asked Sargent Shriver to convene a panel of child development experts to design a program to help communities meet the needs of vulnerable preschool children. The panel report named the Cooke Report after its chair Dr. Robert Cooke-became the blueprint for Project Head Start.

Designed to help break the cycle of poverty, Project Head Start provided preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs and support the families in improving their lives. It was envisioned as an eight-week summer program staffed by volunteers. The plan was to open the doors to a few thousand children nationwide. More than 561,000 children showed up.

Head Start now serves more than one million children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories, including many American Indian, Alaska Native, and migrant children. In 1969, Head Start moved from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Today, it is within the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Help us to celebrate by wishing "Happy Birthday Head Start!" on social media.

Women in Head Start’s History: Marian Wright Edelman and Susan Feingold

Marian Wright Edelman and Susan Feingold embodied Head Start’s mission from the beginning, creating programs rooted in equity and community.

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President’s Day and the History of Head Start

Head Start has been transforming the lives of Americans through 11 presidential administrations. In honor of President’s Day, we reflect on our history.

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Black History Month: A Reflection on Head Start History

In honor of Black History Month, we reflect on just how deeply intertwined Head Start’s history is with that of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Get Ready to Party!

Thursday, May 18 from 2 - 2:30 p.m. ET

Our pals at the Smithsonian National Zoo are hosting a virtual Head Start Birthday Bash like no other! Join us for a wild celebration with adorable zoo babies and Pinky’s favorite pink animal—the flamingo! We’ll sing and dance and you’ll get to meet Monique Chism, the Smithsonian's under secretary for education, who has a heartfelt message for you, Head Start.