Head Start Is Culturally Responsive to Communities and Families

A key tenet of Head Start is that programs are culturally responsive to the communities served. Programs have been established in tribal communities since Head Start's beginning in 1965. Do you know when the first exclusively Migrant and Seasonal programs were funded?

  1. 1965
  2. 1967
  3. 1969
  4. 1977

Response to quiz:

Congress authorized funds for Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) in 1969. To effectively accommodate families working in agriculture, MSHS programs have a history of providing seasonal, full-day services for children from birth to age 5 in family child care and center-based settings. During the peak agricultural season, programs are open up to six days a week for eight to 12 hours a day to meet the needs of parents working in the fields or packing houses. Since its inception, MSHS has provided services for infants and toddlers as well as preschoolers. MSHS also provides transportation services since families tend to live in rural areas with few transportation options. Many programs deploy transportation services and staff as early as 4:30 a.m. to accommodate parents’ need to report to work by 5 a.m. MSHS programs ensure family involvement and are committed to securing bilingual and culturally-competent staff who can engage parents in a meaningful way, earn their trust, and empower them as parents. Program directors work with parents to ensure meetings and trainings are scheduled at times and locations that encourage parent participation. They also hire flexible staff who are willing to work evenings and weekends to meet with parents during off-work hours. In 2015, 26 MSHS grantee agencies served 28,696 children from birth to age 5 in programs across 38 states.

Between 1976 and 1979, Head Start funded the Head Start Bilingual Bicultural Curriculum Development Project. Its purpose was to develop, pilot, and implement four bilingual, bicultural preschool curriculum models for use with Spanish-speaking children. In 1977, Head Start funded programs to use the four different bilingual and bicultural curriculum models across 21 states. An evaluation of the project found that Head Start children who spoke primarily Spanish at home performed better on English language impact measures when they were receiving any of the four bilingual curricula than did similar Head Start children not receiving one of the four curricula.

In the summer of 1965, there were 34 American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start programs in 14 states. Now in 2015, 150 AIAN Head Start programs serve nearly 20,000 preschool-aged children, 4,300 infants and toddlers, and 400 pregnant women across 26 states and in 150 different Tribal Nations. Another 20,000 AIAN children and families are served in non-tribal Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

To honor the cultural heritage of Tribal children, families, and communities, AIAN Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer traditional language and cultural practices within their daily services. Currently, AIAN programs are involved in a number of language and cultural preservation, revitalization, and maintenance efforts. These efforts include teaching language using a variety of models and supporting cultural ways and traditions by aligning them with school readiness efforts. In May 2015, OHS released ACF-IM-HS-15-02 Native Language Preservation, Revitalization, Restoration, and Maintenance in Head Start and Early Head Start Programs to support the active integration of language and cultural teachings in AIAN programs, including the use of language immersion, dual language, and other proven approaches.

Last Reviewed: December 2015

Last Updated: March 22, 2017