Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia has been a Head Start champion on Capitol Hill from the moment she was elected to Congress nearly 20 years ago. In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate her leadership on behalf of children and families and her trailblazing work as West Virginia’s first female U.S. Senator.
Senator Capito is a proud Head Start ally. She sees the benefits of Head Start’s whole-child, whole-family approach for West Virginia families and for families in every community across the country.
“I’m a champion for Head Start because Head Start champions thousands of children in my state,” Senator Capito explained.
Over the course of her career, Senator Capito has championed Head Start’s role in addressing the country’s substance abuse crisis and supporting children who have experienced trauma. West Virginia has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. In response, she has dedicated efforts to finding solutions that wrap around the whole family in response.
In her words:
“Our state has wonderful and beautiful people, but we have challenges. We have economic challenges, we have challenges most recently with the opioid epidemic, and we have a lot of our families really in crisis. Unfortunately, our state has been hit very hard by the opioid and the addiction problem. We have the highest mortality rate from drug overdoses of per capita of any state in the entire country. And, when you think about how that affects a family, often the biggest impact and the most uncertain impact on the future is for the children in the home.
I became very interested in making sure every child has a chance, that every child has a good chance. The only way to break that cycle of poverty or hopelessness, is through education, and that’s where Head Start really caught my eye.
I realized early as a young mother, what you do in those formative years from zero until when they go to kindergarten, sets the path for a child. And that’s what I think Head Start does–it gives them a head start that some children have quite naturally because of the family they’re in or where they live."
Senator Capito also offered sound advoacy advice: when Head Start advocates share their programs’ specific needs, she is able to elevate those needs to her congressional colleagues.
“It’s very important that Head Start comes to D.C. every year and tells me how are they doing–what are their needs, but also, where are they falling short? Where they could better help our children develop, where they could get more professionalism in their teachers, and make sure they’re looking at the whole child.”
Head Start is lucky to have long-standing congressional allies like Senator Capito who are partners in ensuring every vulnerable child has the opportunity to reach their potential.
“Head Start has changed a lot of lives,” Senator Capito said. “They’ve helped a lot of people that are now producing families of their own, and using the lessons that they learned, that were embedded in them in their early years in Head Start. So, as the first woman Senator, a trailblazer for West Virginia, I want to support the programs that support the future–I’m proud to be one of the champions of Head Start.”