Head Start

A comprehensive preschool program for children from low-income families


Project Head Start, launched as a summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965, was designed to break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children and their families with a program to meet their social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. Head Start is now an $8 billion dollar program that provides comprehensive services to low-income children from age three to the age of school attendance. A new program, Early Head Start, serving children from birth to three years was initiated in 1995. Head Start serves more than 1 million children and families nationwide, through a network of approximately 1,600 grantees.

The city of Phoenix Head Start Program is administered by the Human Services Department, Education Division. Since its inception in 1965, our program has provided comprehensive child and family development services to more than 59,000 families. In March 2013, the city of Phoenix Head Start program celebrated its 48th anniversary.

Head Start has experienced growth in recent years, with the expansion of Head Start and Early Head Start through stimulus funding. The program currently receives approximately $26 million in federal assistance and serves more than 3,200 children each year in the following critical areas:


Each child receives a variety of individualized learning experiences to foster social, intellectual, physical and emotional growth. Children participate in indoor and outdoor play and are introduced to the concepts of words and numbers. They are encouraged to express their feelings, develop self-confidence and their ability to get along with others.

Health and Nutrition

Head Start emphasizes preventive care and early detection of health problems. Every child receives a complete physical examination including vision and hearing tests, immunizations, a dental exam and identification of disabling conditions. Follow-up services are provided. Through the nutrition program, children are served a minimum of one balanced meal and a healthful snack each day.

Parent Involvement

An essential part of every Head Start program is the involvement of parents in education, program planning and operation. Parents play an active role in all aspects of the program. Through that involvement and other training and activities, parents also have the opportunity to gain skills and secure employment. Many employees at both the grantee and delegate agency levels are former Head Start parents.

Social Services

A case management program assists families in assessing their own needs, identifying and securing services and building upon their individual strengths. A variety of community resources are available to families in addition to crisis intervention and emergency assistance.


At least 10 percent of Head Start's enrollment is dedicated to children with disabilities or other special needs. Specially trained staff work closely with community agencies to provide services to disabled children while simultaneously providing them with an integrated, developmentally appropriate early childhood experience within the Head Start classroom.

Mental Health

Mental health professionals work with staff and parents to increase awareness of the special problems of children and provide a link to mental health resources.

More Information


Head Start Documents