By Dr. Bernadine Futrell
Last week, we celebrated 56 years of the Head Start program, and 26 years of the Early Head Start program. On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause of building a "Great Society" by signing into law the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, and Project Head Start was born. Ever since, the Head Start program has served as the building block for comprehensive early childhood education and development for children from birth to 5 and their families.
As director of the Head Start program, I believe strongly that education is the key to disrupting poverty. Moreover, child development experts have found that early intervention programs, like the Head Start program, significantly affect the cognitive and socio-emotional development of children from low-income backgrounds. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the American Rescue Plan Act provides $1 billion to support the immediate and ongoing needs of existing local Head Start and Early Head Start programs to resume and maintain quality early childhood education and services that encourage safe and healthy development.
The Head Start community — including Head Start-Child Care partnerships, the Early Head Start program, and our migrant and seasonal and American Indian and Alaska Native communities — remains strong and resilient. I saw it firsthand as a child enrolled in a Head Start program, and later, as a Head Start assistant teacher. I have learned so much from this community during my career, including most recently from my work at the National Association.
The Office of Head Start provides comprehensive family services from prenatal care through age five. Comprehensive services develop the whole child — cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally. Head Start and Early Head Start programs have prepared millions of children for school and life.
Watch the video replay to hear a conversation between me and Dr. Carol Brunson Day from the Council of Professional Recognition. Together, we talk about the positive impact high-quality early childhood services has on children and families, particularly in terms of improving equity. We also discussed successes, current challenges, and the program’s commitment to the hard work in front of us. Discover how the Head Start program’s historic role has offered and continues to offer life-changing opportunities to children and parents.
This blog has been adapted from ACF’s Family Room Blog, originally published on May 18, 2021.
Celebrate Head Start's 56th Birthday!
Celebrate Head Start's 56th Birthday!
Glenna Davis: Hello, hello and welcome everyone. We want to take this time to wish a happy 56th birthday to Head Start. Now let's get started.
Dr. Bernadine Futrell: Happy birthday, Head Start, and hello everyone. Good morning and good afternoon, depending on where you are joining us from. My name is Dr. Bernadine Futrell, and I am the proud director of the Office of Head Start, and I am a proud alumni of the Head Start program. I am so excited to be with you today to celebrate Head Start 56 years. Fifty-six years of Head Start includes our migrant and seasonal Head Start programs, our American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start and 26 years of early Head Start programs. We are so excited because since 1965, Head Start has led the way in comprehensive family and child-centered effective practices for success in life and school for private families, children, from birth through age 5.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause of building a great society by declaring a war on poverty. In his first State of the Union, he addressed this issue and he wanted to eradicate the causes of poverty by creating job opportunities, increasing productivity and enhancing the quality of life. From that, Project Head Start was born because he, as a former teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Texas, believed strongly that education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. We know this to be true at Head Start because many child development experts have found that early intervention programs like Head Start significantly impact the cognitive, relational, and social/emotional development for children from low-income backgrounds. Head Start focuses on the whole child, the whole community. and the whole family with our comprehensive services from prenatal through age five.
Our comprehensive services develop the whole child, not just cognitively but physically, socially. and emotionally. Head Start and Early Head Start have prepared over 35 million children for school and life, and we continue to be the nation's center for innovation and a leader in early childhood care and education.
We want to take a moment as we celebrate Head Start's birthday by going back to our history and hearing from some of the great leaders who were a part of Project Head Start. Enjoy the video. We'll see you on the other side.
Betty Kelson: Well, it was pretty wonderful too to go into an area that had Head Start and a good community action program, and you'd go in and you'd see rows of clothing and you'd provide the parents with clothing. And that was a major thing for some of those children who never had really clothes at all. But the community came together. Once they knew a Head Start program was there, they started bringing in all these supplies. I remember going into a place in
California, and I was amazed at how they came together and worked as a group. They had sewing machines for the women, and they repaired the clothing right there in this little church hall. The volunteers were teaching some of the parents how to put clothing together so that the children could wear it.
Rossie Kelly: It's an age-old theory in community development. If you want to start something, you start something for the children. It's the same thing as the old Peace Corps concept. You go in and you talk about a program for the children. Pretty soon the parents are showing up.
Juanita Dennis: I want to add my experience. Just about that time I was waiting for 1965 to come up, so '65 the governor signed off, in our case in the district, the mayor signed off. And then it came down to the public school, and we were one of the people that received money to operate a program. Was that something? I was a key person that had to help start that, so one thing we had to do, we knew we had some money. We had to start ordering supplies because we had a D-date for the program to start. Two of us stayed up all night one night and ordered supplies for the district. By about 3:00 in the morning, I didn't even know what this was or that was – it was so upsetting. But after that, all the supplies started coming in and they would all go to a warehouse.
Rossie: Yes, and then they had to go out to the sites.
Juanita: And then they had to go out to the sites, so each person who was in charge of the place had to go out and get that. So, I can remember my car, my mother, my husband, my children all – and we were loading material around. Loads of paper, loads of paint, anything you can think of.
Rossie: To get started.
Juanita: And that's how Head Start got from way up there where you all were working on down to the local level.
Rossie: I remember somebody saying once we had 800 kids in someplace in Alabama, and they were all in churches because a lot of places, the public facilities in the south wouldn't take us.
Preston Bruce: That's exactly it.
Rossie: We were integrated.
Preston: That's what I was saying earlier.
Rossie: Yes, yes.
Betty: But we used facilities that were really not up to date.
Juanita: Oh absolutely.
Rossie: Yeah, that's right.
Betty: We latched on to anything that we could to get a Head Start program started. And then that's where a lot of the parents moved in, and that came later of course, the parent involvement. But they moved in and started painting around and fixing the rooms for these children.
Preston Bruce: An incredible amount of pride I think that really began to take place there, and it was also where you found individuals who were parents who became part of the program because we encouraged them. And that also led to down the road, the whole CDA because you had to credential and really train a number of the people who were not initially in there to provide some kind of way of providing that as well.
Betty: Pancho came into Head Start and all he wanted was a fire engine, and at that time I think I said Texaco was giving out these big fire engines. They were quite long, so I was sent out to find a fire engine for Pancho and brought him one. Many years later, I saw Pancho at one of our conferences and he remembered that little red wagon, and he said he played with that for years. It's a nice story because it was just such a part of Head Start to know that he had a toy that was his own.
Speaker 7: That's what I was about to show her the frame. There's Pancho there.
Rossie: Oh, they found him through the health program. There was this little kid, malnourished. They thought he would never grow up.
Betty: I couldn't remember how ...
Rossie: There was this little kid malnourished.
Betty: I couldn't remember what the story was on Pancho.
Rossie: They thought he would never grow up.
Betty: But he turned out to be quite successful.
Rossie: Oh yes.
Edmund Clark: Head Start was very, very influential in the early days of getting colleges to begin to look at their curriculum and to offer the CDA and to offer degrees in early childhood education.
E. Dollie Wolverton: That's absolutely true. We did that all over the country and certainly very active in the area in which I'm familiar, but I think that what we have to keep in mind is that this has been extremely successful. It's been a barrier breaker, and now something like 71% of the
teachers in Head Start have either a Bachelor's Degree in the field of early childhood or have a higher degree. Now that's a phenomenon if I've ever heard of it, wow.
Ray Collins: The thing that Head Start did that was so important and that appealed to leaders in these other organizations is the notion of mainstream. The fact that Head Start children with disabilities are in the same classroom with other children who may not have disabilities, or at least where disabilities may not be recognized and perhaps even developmental delays. That was almost unknown in the early '70s when Head Start began this throughout, so it's another example of Head Start pioneering to reach out with other agencies at the national level and at the local level, federal agencies, and private organization.
Edmund: Head Start always focused on the total child. The child is more than just an individual sitting at a desk in a classroom. A child is an individual who eats, a child is an individual who has positive or negative relationships with his parents and siblings. A child is an individual who may be the recipient of social services, all these kinds of things. And Head Start, of course as far as I am concerned, is the leader in trying to and very successfully in many, many cases in getting all of these things together and focusing on the total child, which means providing all of those resources that are necessary to address each one of the aspects of the child's life.
Dr. Futrell: I am super excited because we are celebrating Head Start's birthday by having a special conversation who all of you already know. She is a true leader and a true evangelist when it comes to what effective family and child-centered practice should be. We are thankful to have Dr. Carol Brunson Day join us for a conversation about the future, the opportunities and everything ahead for Head Start. I am so thrilled because with her over 40 years of experience, she has created and institutionalized some of the most effective practices that we see every day in Head Start. We are honored to bring her to this conversation, and we look forward to engaging in a rich discussion about what we have in front of us, what we have behind us, and the future that we have as we move forward. So, please join me in giving a virtual welcome for Dr. Carol Brunson Day.
Well, we are just so excited to have you with us, Dr. Day. It's such an honor to meet you and to be in this virtual space with you and really to just learn together as we talk about kind of the future and moving forward with Head Start in celebration of our 56th birthday. I'm so excited about that, and thank you so much for being a part of this conversation.
I have a few questions, but I know we're going to have a conversation together about some of the opportunities ahead and just leaning into some of the past that we've done together as well.
Could I start by just asking you to share your story? I know we read your bio, we talked about all of the great things you've done, but can you share your story? What led you to do the work that you've been doing? And what keeps you doing it and being so integral to the future and the history of where we're going with early childhood education and development?
Dr. Carol Brunson Day: Well thank you, Dr. Futrell. I'm delighted to be a part of this today and excited about the conversation we're about to have. And that's because my start in this work is based essentially on experiences as a child. I was very fortunate to have a good experience in education. I come from a family of educators and decided to go to graduate school in early childhood education.
Just by coincidence, because I was from Chicago, I learned about Erikson Institute. And it happened to be the very first year they were awarding graduate degrees. And so, I went to school there, learned all about early childhood education, and had a classmate who had been offered a position at a community college in Illinois, and asked me to join the faculty when I completed my Master's Degree. Turns out the … And I accepted that.
The community college was the first community college in Illinois, if not the first in the nation … This was 1969, the third year of Head Start. This community college had a lab school with 50% tuition-paying children and 50% Head Start children. So, my role was to be ahead teacher in the lab school and to teach child development coursework. That was my very first job in early childhood education.
I was exposed to Head Start early. And as any young person – because I was 22 years old at the time – what you see, you think is happening everywhere. So, I had this impression that the way in which that Head Start program unfolded on that college campus was the way in which early childhood education and Head Start unfolded everywhere.
So, from the very beginning, I had very, very high expectations for my work and for everyone's work with young children. And I had this foundational belief, fundamental belief that the way in which Head Start approached the education of young children and comprehensive services and working with families was the way all early childhood should unfold.
Dr. Futrell: OK, I was going to say I think that's so powerful, your background, because I didn't know that about you. And my first role was an assistant teacher in a Head Start program. And as an assistant teacher, I had that same belief. I was like, "Oh, this must be happening everywhere," and then when I started working more so in the K12 space, I started asking questions about where is the extension of what's happening in the homes and what's happening at the classrooms, and how are we using that to lead and make changes to the work that we do? So, I think that's so powerful.
And on those lines, I think so much of what Head Start has done and the history and the innovation and the research has really paved the way for a lot of the best practices, effective practices that we lift up today. And so, my next question … I'm wondering could we reflect a little bit on the history of Head Start and talk about some of those big ideas that started in Head Start but are now impacting so many more children and families, even those not enrolled in Head Start?
Dr. Day: Right. Well, there are many, as you indicated, but I think the most powerful is the concept of comprehensive services and combined with the concept of a child development
approach to the children. All of the things that I think Head Start has demonstrated so well where the entire early childhood community grow out of that. Now, because I was around when Head Start first began or in the very early years, I know a lot about the conversations that took place when it was founded. The whole concept of Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of development was very deeply embraced by the framers of Head Start. So, they didn't just sit around and say, "OK, what components should we put in this?" They did it based on their belief in that particular theory of human development.
So, I would say this whole idea when you're working with very young children, those families are as important to the evolution of the program as are the children that this sense that every part of that ecology of the child must be embraced and supported in the course of the evolution of the program. I would say, if anything, that is what Head Start demonstrated to the world of early childhood.
While we talk about education of the young child, and at times we get this sense that really what Head Start has demonstrated is how to educate young children, they continue to demonstrate the importance of a family support of comprehensive services in the arenas of health and social services and nutrition, not just the individual child's education and that is absolutely critical. In working with young children, something that the public school systems have not embraced in the same way that Head Start has embraced.
Dr. Futrell: I appreciate that, and I think the image of the child at the center and then all of the things that impact around it, so if you approach the conversation about what's best for children with the child at the center, then everything around it should also be developed and supported in a way that it can get to the better outcomes for the child that includes the family, that includes the community, access to resources, includes even just how far away the local grocery store is. I think all of those things play into that development. I think that's so powerful, and I love how you said that because going back to that foundational, really the conceptual idea of: How do you support children? You partner with those who are supporting and being a part of the development of that child. It starts with the family, includes the community, and I think it takes some leadership.
What I noticed from Head Start, the Head Start community provides leadership locally to talk to the different agencies and the different players that are impacting the child, including the public schools. So, I think having that perspective and knowing that how we measure outcomes has to start with what's best for that child at the center. So, I appreciate that and it makes me think about the work ahead but also leaning into the work of the future.
And what I will tell you as my second month as the director, there are three areas that I have been thinking about heavily in terms of our priorities. Obviously the first one is kind of getting back to in-person services with moving Head Start forward. So, looking at what we learned from this pandemic, the social unrest and all of those things and leaning into that to pull out innovation, to pull out lessons learned to do our work in a different way and to anchor in some of the things we've done effectively. I think the second piece, and I want to talk a little bit about this with you, not just because of your background but because of your expertise as well that
you've been leading in these conversations about equity, thinking about racial equity, thinking about health equity, educational equity. And the other piece that you kind of led with here, the third priority is building those partnerships with families – looking at children as a part of a family that we're partnering with and including that comprehensive approach to how we develop and identify effective family and child-centered practices.
So, what I would like to ask, maybe if we could talk a little bit about what do you see as Head Start's role in engaging with families and leading in communities?
Dr. Day: Engaging with families and leading with families first. I think this is absolutely so important. Head Start has never really felt that the child was the only client, if you will. The family and particularly parents, the adults in the household, were as much the client as the child.
I guess to distill how that impacts the way in which the interactions emerge in Head Start programs, I would say that the program has always believed that the parent is an extremely powerful element in the life of the child and the child's capacity for future growth and development, and the parents not only influence the children, but they can have an influence on the institutions that the children will engage in.
I think that the message that Head Start gives to parents to help build those capacities within the parent, to influence their children's growth, as well as the institutions that their children will engage in now and in the future is the whole concept of the parent Policy Council and the way in which parents are given a significant and actually primary role in the evolution of policy for Head Start programs.
It is not just something that when you say Head Start talks the talk, they walk the walk around parent engagement. It's so important a model, and I've met many people over the years who will say to me, "I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for my experience in Head Start as a parent and the things I learned there and the experiences that I had there as policy councilmen." I can't name any of them, but I believe that it is such an important framework for the empowerment of parents, particularly across time.
When we think about what is going on in today's world with the sort of re-institution of community-based activism and the engagement of adults, families, parents, in social policy and social change, they are able to participate as contemporary witnesses to social change.
When we talk about Head Start and how it got founded and it was in the '60s and there was an activism and people were in the streets and they said, "We want change. We want change. This is what we want," that is a part of the history of Head Start OK? And the whole engagement of families around their involvement and activism in the evolution of policy was in some ways it's based in a history-long past. But today is a contemporary context for the same history. And I think that Head Start can be in the forefront of whatever activism is going on within the communities where they exist on the ground. They can take some leadership around those issues, to the benefit of young children.
Dr. Futrell: I love that, and I agree completely. My team, we talk a lot about looking at our history and recognizing where we are right now, looking at the war on poverty, the civil rights movement and all the things that were happening that created Head Start.
And I say that to others, that this moment is a moment for Head Start to lead. It's a moment that we kind of were created out of and so as people are looking for solutions locally and communities, I point to the Head Start programs. I point to that because I know that our role in school readiness extends beyond when children enter kindergarten. It's agency and empowerment for families. It's that partnership, that mindset that says, "You know, we can engage, we can learn from and partner with parents and families on effective practices" because again, families are the child's first teacher, the first educator. We're here to extend what's happening in the home to make those connections, so I appreciate all that you shared on that.
I think one of the things that you mentioned that was very important, and maybe we can pause here for a little bit and talk about, and that's the notion of the civil rights movement and the notion of agency and moving communities forward. As I look back to the history of Head Start knowing that a lot of leaders during that movement were also Head Start directors and kind of helped launch and move Head Start and really put Head Start in communities across our nation to really build this infrastructure of equal and equitable access to early childhood education programs.
So, my question for this moment we are in: What role and what opportunities do you see when it comes to equity, when it comes to addressing issues around racism and other things that we're kind of confronting as a nation, based on what Head Start has done but then also opportunities that we have to really lead in this moment that's been given to us?
Dr. Day: I see actually two arenas for that leadership. One is right there within the programs. I think my advice to Head Start educators is to just dig deeper in the arenas that you have already established yourselves around these anti-bias issues. And what I think began as an emphasis on the importance of cultural influences on development, Head Start has always served a very diverse population. Not just geographically but in terms of their cultural backgrounds. Indigenous populations have always been a part of Head Start programs. Immigrant populations always a part of Head Start population. Black populations, Latino, the entire range.
And the cultural ways of being in the world that these children bring is really based on the context of their families, and Head Start very early on acknowledged the importance of learning about those cultural differences and embracing them and using them as part of the way in which classroom interactions unfold.
From that movement or from that concern, they also have been engaged in anti-bias issues, working to make sure there's a clear understanding among staff first and foremost – and then of course children and families – that biases against cultures are a negative influence on children's development. And so, we don't want to perpetuate biases – cultural, racial, gender,
etc. – as part of the Head Start program. Part of the program, and I'm talking about really internal to the way in which policy council gets set up, the way in which program curricula get selected, all of the conversations that happen inside of programs.
The other arena where Head Start is able also to have an influence is on the other institutions that engage with Head Start: the public school system, the community issues as you mentioned, Dr. Futrell, the concerns of equity that are a part of the community and how the Head Start program interfaces with those social policy, if you will, agendas within their communities. There's always been an emphasis on the importance of activism on the part of staff, the adults in the program, and in the ways in which conversations occur with families, with parents. So, Head Start directors have had voices before the city council, before the school board about issues that are directly related to bias and to inequities in the communities. Those things have been a part of Head Start from early on. I say if Head Start continues to do that, they will reap the benefits within the communities and of course to children now and in the future.
Dr. Futrell: Thank you, thank you. I appreciate that. You mentioned the role of community culture being a part of the Head Start program. One of the things that I was very proud about to learn is that I think one in four Head Start employees are parents or parents of children that have gone through Head Start programs. And I'm also excited about the intentional focus for the migrant and seasonal Head Start program, the American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start programs. And I guess as we think about those two programs and the broader other Head Start programs, including Early Head Start, what opportunities did you see for Head Start when it comes to being an equity lever, either through these programs, through Head Start, through Early Head Start? And what should we be doing and thinking about nationally and locally?
Dr. Day: Well clearly those programs are equity levers in the sense that they produce outcomes that would not be produced anyplace else. When I was working with the CDA credentialing program, we were able to really get a deep understanding of the limitations that were placed really before those populations. Migrant populations, rural, Alaskan Native populations – they really have tremendous difficulties accessing services that are right around the corner in big cities. I'm a big city girl having grown up in Chicago and it gave me such insight to the important work that Head Start is doing with those populations to, as I said, produce outcomes that just wouldn't be there if it weren't for Head Start.
That you all have organized them as separate regional areas because of the importance of that focus is something that is an equity driver in itself. You have an institutional commitment to the special requirements for success within those communities. So, I would say that the way in which you've orchestrated and organized the delivery of Head Start are equity drivers in themselves, and if indeed you could have an influence on other institutions to do the same thing, we might be able to see those same outcomes.
The way in which you have aligned with other institutions in producing comprehensive services, I suspect, and I don't know as much about this, but I suspect that in itself is an equity driver for the way in which you are impacting the delivery of comprehensive services for health service providers, for social services providers and so forth. Your ability and focus on collaborating,
collaboration, and particularly with public school systems, the impact that you've had there I believe is an equity driver as well.
What we see, we see a whole movement of public school systems to include 4-year-olds. I have to say if that's not an equity driver is, I don't know what an equity driver looks like. There's a … I say this because the outcome of these efforts changes the lives of those children and families and I think that's what equity is all about.
Dr. Futrell: Thank you. What a great framing for us to think about the work that we do but also the opportunities that we have to advance that. I'm not from a big city. I'm from a small town, a farm actually, in southern Virginia. One memory that I have … I'm a four year old and I'm getting on a bus to go to Head Start and my sister who was my guardian at the time, I remember seeing her, and she's 11 years older than me so she's this 14 year old child watching me get on a bus to go off to Head Start, and she was crying. It's like all these emotions, and when I talk to her now she tells me that watching me go on the bus, she was so terrified but she also had so much trust in the Head Start program to know that I was going to be safe, I was going to be cared for. And that was her hope, that I would go off and have a great educational experience.
But what happened instead is I went off and got a great educational experience, but we also made connections for our family because no one knew we were out there. We were on a farm in southern Virginia and so now you have people asking her about things that they can do to support her as a high school student, to support her as working with my brother who at the time was in upper elementary school. And all of those connections came into our life because I got on that bus to go to Head Start. It was only because she trusted the program. She trusted Mrs. Green, my Head Start teacher, that I was going to be safe. And because of that we were connected to a whole world of opportunities that really just changed all of our lives. She's now a dean at a college and doing the same work in terms of reaching and supporting.
But that to me is the equity in it. It's the intentionality of focusing to say, "I'm going to identify and I'm going to partner with families. I'm going to go find families wherever they are and invite them in to this wonderful Head Start program, but I'm going to lean into what is happening in the home to bring it into what we can build on to build that success." So, I think that is so well-said and just thinking about that reminded me of just my own experience in getting on that bus to go to Head Start and go to Mrs. Green's class. I thank you, Mrs. Green, if you're watching this. I just appreciate all that I got from Head Start.
Now I know we're kind of getting close to our time here, but there are two more questions I want us to talk about a little bit. I think the first one, you mentioned schools serving more 4-year-olds, and I think that's a good thing for us because that means more children are getting more access to early childhood education because we know that is what's best. The question then becomes around compensation for our Head Start workforce. We see the value of 4-year-olds being in preschool settings and we know the value of Early Head Start children, infants and toddlers, receiving support and partnership. But what questions or conversations should we be having when it comes to the salaries of Head Start community, making those comparable to
those of other educators? I think we are all in agreement now that there is value in the preschool education, the 4-year-olds, the Early Head Start. Now what conversation do we have to support the Head Start workforce?
Dr. Day: The conversations are out there right now, and we are at a time when the early childhood education community has embraced the idea that higher salaries are important, and a framework has been developed for getting the stability in thinking around what to do. And it's part of the work that NAOIC has done in the past, I guess three or four years around Power to Profession. The Head Start programs, through the participation of the National Head Start Association, was a part of those conversations. We have, if you will, a framework – not exactly a roadmap, but a framework. And the roadmap has to be developed.
But in essence, we've always said this but now it's codified, that formal education and credentials are important, and advocacy for systemic funding is important, that the money to pay the salaries has to be there. And so, for Head Start and for really the entire early childhood education employer community, those are the two areas of work.
One is – and Head Start has beautifully demonstrated – career development and how that can be supported. For people who live in the community, for people who belong to the families of the children who attend programs, it is an internal strategy. You bring people in; you support their professional development. You either bring it to them or you get them to it. And through that as a program, you also have the capacity to have a salary structure for the people who work for Head Start that, in fact, get them greater salaries and benefits as they achieve greater professional preparation. That in and of itself, you're demonstrating that internally and you want to continue that. It's not easy, but we have to stick to our guns on this.
The other external strategy, I mentioned the work that NAOIC has done. We, as Head Start programs and Head Start, Office of Head Start would and should follow the lead that the organizations are providing. As that roadmap gets developed for how we're going to implement the recommendations of the Power to the Profession.
There are other organizations that are parts of Head Start communities and national organizations like the one out in Berkeley, the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment that has made recommendations on what we need to do in order to achieve the status in terms of public will, in terms of public policy, in terms of legislation that has funding in it to support the salaries of personnel that work in early childhood education.
So, we've got two arenas of work that will create the path to equitable salaries. And I think that this era is ... We've been working on this for a very long time. We need more money, we think we should be paid more, but the strategies now are really much more concrete and deliberate. And the communication systems are there so that people are able to track, to know what is going on elsewhere and to track our progress in this area. Very important.
Dr. Futrell: Thank you. And I'm hopeful because I know the American Families Plan does include a specific call out for our Head Start community on wages in the workforce, so I think you're right. There's momentum, there's opportunities to continue to build on that.
It's so important because after everything that we try to do and everything we try to prioritize, I think we have to start with I always say our people. We have to start with our Head Start people, our Head Start workforce, our Head Start community to really be able to do anything, especially as we have these conversations right now about returning to in-person comprehensive services. There are many programs that are still open in person and have been open throughout this pandemic, but there are also many that are not. As we think about what it takes to move towards in-person comprehensive services, at the Office of Head Start we've been thinking about it through the lens of focusing on the workforce first, identifying and providing support and resources for facilities and all the other things around that, and then providing some support for enrollment and identifying and partnering with children and families. And so, I think the compensation conversation is a part of that, but there are also other indicators that we focus on when we talk about supporting the workforce – wellness and identifying resources that we can offer for support.
So, as we close, I think there's one more question or one more topic, or probably the topic that most of us are thinking about, and that is how to do that. How to get back to in-person comprehensive services, and also how to get back and increase around equality and around just getting back to doing things not just the way we did it before the pandemic, but being free to lean into the lessons learned, the innovation opportunities that are there, and moving forward.
So, what we're doing, we'll launch it tomorrow, is a Head Start Forward campaign. We are very excited about it because we see moving Head Start forward as the work to do right now. And that includes working together as a Head Start community around what it takes to get back to in-person comprehensive services, what it takes to lean into the lessons from the past year and a half, to innovate, to move forward, to do things in a way that we're really reaching and supporting and partnering with the children and families in our communities.
So, our Head Start Forward campaign launches tomorrow, but as we close this conversation, I want to ask you Dr. Day, what should we focus on for the Head Start community that's listening in on this conversation? What are the priorities? What are the questions as we think about getting back to in-person comprehensive services? And this Head Start Forward campaign I will share, the idea is we are going to have webinars, we're going to have conversations, and we're going to have a whole community movement around moving back. So, I want to ask you, what are the first things we should be focusing on? We all know the sanitary and all those kind of things to keep the facilities clean. We know that. But I know from you, as a visionary, as somebody who thinks about how things connect, how bridges are built, what should we be talking about in our conversations as we think about moving Head Start forward with the launch of this campaign on tomorrow?
Dr. Day: Well that is quite a challenging question, but I think that it is very important to recognize that the real strength of Head Start and what you achieve is in the interaction
between the performance standards, the rules and regulations, the intent, and the people who come to the programs. And it is only through those interactions, it's not like the program delivers something to the people and the people absorb it and take it home. Head Start is an interactional process. There is a framework, and there is a population. And as they interact, both things change, OK? The programs change as a result of the interaction with the populations they serve. So, the people are changing, and the program is changing at the same time.
And it's very important I think, it's critical to keep that front and center as you develop webinars and choose select topics. I'll just give you one quick example, which is really ... the example that here we sit, me from the old generation, old school Head Start – you, the new-school Head Start. The interactions between us have a yield, and the yield is something new that has not happened before, and we have to pay attention to that yield.
So, I want for Head Start to remain grounded in the foundational principles. I don't see anything wrong with them. Family engagement, the ecological model, the importance of equity as a high-priority agenda item, professional development for staff, comprehensive services, all those basic things. And at the same time, we have the advantage of a new generation of leaders in Head Start, you and some of the Head Start fellows, who are now – I have to mention Head Start fellows – who are now part of the administration and of programs out of the national office, who are a part of the leadership in communities all across the Head Start community.
Let's listen to each other. Let's listen to the new ideas that people have and weigh those or interpret them given the foundational value system that is the part of Head Start and see what emerges because what emerges will be something magnificent.
I loved the way you talked about … or the emotion that was attached to the way you talked about Mrs. Green, your Head Start teacher. I mean, after all these years, that's the kind of impact Head Start has on people. They carry in their hearts a warmth and a commitment to making Head Start work for other people like it has worked for them. And so, I would say the opportunities ahead are there. Obviously, they're there. Stay on the same path but listen to the new voices, the contemporary concerns within the society, and take advantage of every opportunity to allow new thinking to emerge on behalf of children and families in this country. I wish you well in that endeavor, and I stand ready to be of assistance in any way that I can.
Dr. Futrell: Wow, Dr. Day, thank you so much. You have shared so much in this space, in this virtual space, that I think everyone listening will learn from. I know I will learn from and be able to apply it in the work that we're doing. I'm grateful because I know ... And I like that you said, "The emotion attached to it." This is emotional work. This is work where we have to lead with our heart. There are skills, there's cognitive, and all these other factors that we need to do this work well. But in order to do it effectively, we have to lean into what makes us move, what gets us up in the morning, what allows us to move and continue services even in the midst of a pandemic. I think that's the work and the opportunities that we have, and I thank you so much for engaging in this conversation as we celebrate Head Start's birthday and really have this intentional call to action that I'm hearing from you to say, "Lean into what we know" and use
that to move forward with innovation, with idea sharing, with co-creating our future by looking at our past and respecting the moment we are in right now to pick up those lessons.
I thank you so, so much for being a part of this conversation. I am honored to have spent this time with you and I look forward to ongoing conversations as we continue this great work and this great opportunity that we have with Head Start. Thank you.
Dr. Day: I wish you all the best and I look forward to our next meeting.
Dr. Futrell: Thank you.
Thank you so much, Dr. Day, for sharing your story, to challenge us with new opportunities ahead, and bringing us back to the memory of the great work that Head Start is building upon from our history.
Thank you everybody that's also on the line joining and watching this conversation. We know that it is you who keeps Head Start moving forward. We thank you so much for the opportunity to share in this conversation and celebration of Head Start's birthday. I thank you all for your work, your dedication, and your partnership as we move this work ahead. I am honored and excited to join you as we do this work and look forward to more opportunities together. Thank you, Head Start.
Sargent Shriver: Speaking from the White House on May 18, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the first grant under Project Head Start.
President Lyndon B. Johnson: It was less than three months ago that we opened a new war front on poverty. We set out to make certain that poverty's children would not be forevermore poverty's captives. We called our program Project Head Start. The program was conceived in not so much as a federal effort, but really as a neighborhood effort. And the response we have received from the neighborhoods and the communities has been the most stirring and the most enthusiastic of any peacetime program that I can remember.
Today, we were able to announce that we will have open, and we believe operating – this summer coast to coast – some 2000 child development centers serving as many as possibly a half a million children. This means that nearly half the preschool children of poverty will get a head start on their future. These children will receive preschool training to prepare them for regular school in September. They will get medical and dental attention that they badly need, and parents will receive counseling on improving the home environment.
This is a most remarkable accomplishment and it's been done in a very short time. It would not be possible except for the willing and the enthusiastic cooperation of Americans throughout the country. I believe this response reflects a realistic and a wholesome awakening in America. It shows that we are recognizing that poverty perpetuates itself. Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty's curse and not its creators.
Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation like a family birthmark. I believe that this is one of the most constructive and one of the most sensible and also one of the most exciting programs that this nation has ever undertaken. And I don't say that just because the most ardent and most active and most enthusiastic supporter of this program happens to be the honorary national chairman, Ms. Johnson.
We've taken up the age old challenge of poverty, and we don't intend to lose generations of our children to this enemy of the human race. This program, like so many others, will succeed in proportion as it is supported by voluntary assistance and understanding from all of our people.
So, we're going to need a million good neighbors, volunteers who will give their time for a few hours each week caring for these children, helping in 100 ways to grow out their potentials. We need housewives and co-eds. We need teachers and doctors. We need men and women of all walks and all entries to lend their talent and their warmth and their hands and their hearts. The net that is cast upon these waters will surely return many thousand-fold, and what a sense of achievement and what great pride and how happy that will make all of us who love America feel about this undertaking. Thank you.
Glenna Davis: Thank you all so very much for joining us today to celebrate the birthday of Head Start. We want you all to have a great, great, great rest of your day. And again, happy birthday, Head Start. Bye-bye now.Close
Dr. Bernadine Futrell is the Director of the Office of Head Start.
Dr. Bernadine Futrell is the Director of the Office of Head Start.