Since 1965, the guiding principle of Head Start has been to ensure every child enters school physically, emotionally, and intellectually prepared to begin formal learning. In the program's inaugural year, Head Start provided services to 561,000 children. Currently, Head Start provides services to more than 900,000 children each year, building on its legacy of having served more than 22 million children.
Head Start is a family-focused program that helps mothers and fathers understand and appreciate the vital and unique roles they play in their children's healthy development. Nevertheless, over the years, the majority of Head Start parent involvement has been by mothers, not because fathers have been excluded, but often because societal factors have placed mothers in the primary role of nurturing early childhood development.
However, in the last two decades, this trend has begun a reversal and, like many family-based community programs, Head Start is making significant efforts to recruit and engage fathers in their children's social, emotional, physical, and educational development. Like other family-based programs, Head Start has found that substantial time and effort are required to reverse old stereotypes about the importance of father involvement in children's early development. This tip sheet discusses the real and perceived barriers to father involvement that need to be overcome in order to successfully engage fathers. (Author abstract modified)
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