History of Head Start

Head Start was first launched as a summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965 as an effort to break the cycle of poverty, by meeting the social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs of low-income children (ages 3-5) and their families. The program has grown from a brief, eight-week summer program for preschoolers in 1965 to a year-round program today, serving children from birth to age five and pregnant women. Since 1965, over 160 million children and their families have received Head Start comprehensive services. Head Start provides children from low-income families with daily nutritious meals and many opportunities for social, emotional, and intellectual growth that can prepare them for success in school and in life. The program also connects children to a health care source and provides vital support services to their families.

Head Start has expanded to serve infants and toddlers. Early Head Start, a program for infants and toddlers, was initiated in response to the changing needs of low-income families and to research indicating how critical the period from birth to age three is to a child’s healthy growth and development. Beginning in 1995, sixty-eight Early Head Start programs were funded to serve more than 5,000 pregnant women and families with children under age three. In subsequent years, Early Head Start has more than doubled in size and now serves families in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Early Head Start increases awareness of the adverse effects of raising young children in negative environments and works to provide and raise children in positive and safe environments. Staff members support child attachment by minimizing the number of different caregivers. Early Head Start also focuses on finding ways to increase parent involvement, especially among fathers. Caregivers make regular home-visits, especially to families with newborns.

Head Start has set high standards. Head Start has established comprehensive standards for program design and operation and strictly enforces them with on-site monitoring to ensure that all Head Start children and their families receive the highest-quality service. The standards reflect the latest research on the best methods for working with young children and their families. The Head Start Program Performance Standards were developed by a diverse team of child development and health experts, teachers, and program staff, with input from community partners. The Head Start Program Performance Standards provide valuable direction on virtually every aspect of Head Start services.

Head Start measures its outcomes for children. Head Start four-year-olds perform above the levels expected for children from low-income families who have not attended center-based programs. They develop a sense of structure and are better prepared for elementary school. Head Start research is pioneering methods to evaluate these and other benefits to ensure that Head Start programs continue to be accountable to the families they serve and to the wider community.

Our History

A workshop held in the spring of 1962 on “Widening the Horizons of the Culturally – Deprived Child’ inspired a chain of events that resulted in the establishment of a nonprofit day care center in the Greater Annandale Area. A 24-member committee of the Fairfax County Council on Human Relations formed to find the answer to a need they found in the existing area. The survey revealed that there were no nonprofit day care centers available to families in that area – especially for families whose financial circumstances dictate that the mother work. The Higher Horizons Day Care Center Committee officially organized and determined the location of the center at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church on Old Columbia Pike, Annandale. The five communities to be served included Bailey’s Crossroads, Falls Church, Mt. Pleasant, Lincolnia, and Gum Springs. Members of the Committee included, Annandale founding members included Mrs. Christian Goll, Sidney Holland, Mrs. Albert Kassabian, Mrs. Solomon Lee, Mrs. Robert Moore, Mrs. Sally Ortolani, Mrs. William Hartzler, and Mrs. Ellwood Summer. Lincolnia founding members were: Mrs. James Carter, Fred Ruffing, Lucius Lee, Otis Summers, Hillery Hamilton (Mt. Pleasant), Robert Goodwin, Augustus Johnson (Springfield,) Thomas Smith, Mrs. Eugene Puryear, Mrs. Edward White Mrs. Milton Sheppard ( (Bailey’s Crossroads) Mr. and Mrs. Charles Washington, Mrs. Thomas Marshall (Falls Church).

Higher Horizons was the first licensed day care center in Fairfax County (Department of Welfare and Institutions, Bureau of Children’s Services) , and first received $10,000 in Fairfax County Funding to carry on the work of the center. The founding members were recognized for meeting community needs – providing full time day care for children of very low-income families, this was a first such effort in Northern Virginia.

Higher Horizons Day Care Center, Inc. is located in the Lillian Carey Annex. The land for the Higher Horizons building facility was formerly known as the Lillian Carey Elementary School. The Lillian Carey Elementary School was built and dedicated on May 19, 1957 in honor of Lillian Hopkins Carey (b. 1867- d. 1935). Lillian Hopkins Carey was an African American educator and a Bailey’s Crossroads community pioneer.

Higher Horizons Day Care Center, Inc. Receives $1 million in Recovery Funding for Early Head Start in Bailey’s Crossroads and Falls Church, VA

Virginia’s Governor Timothy Kaine announced on December 17, 2009, that Higher Horizons was one of the recipients of Early Head Start expansion funding made possible from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

(Sources: January 1965, Northern Virginia Sun, October 1962, Annandale Free)