Options for Full-Day Services for Children Participating in Head Start . History of Full-Day Services in Head Start


In the early days of Head Start, many grantees offered full- day, full-year care to children whose parents or caregivers were not in the home due to employment, illness, or other reasons. However, in the early 1970s, the number of grantees offering this option substantially declined, as Head Start focused on increasing the number of families served rather than on offering extensive services to a smaller number of families. Head Start grantees continued to offer full-day services but to a limited group that included children in migrant families and a relatively small number of nonmigrant families, where the need for such services was clearly documented. However, Federal staff no longer approved the offering of full-day services for all children on the basis of parent preference alone.

In the late 1980s, several phenomena within the United States generated a new call for full-day services for low-income children. First, and most strikingly, mothers across all income groups increased their participation in the labor force, which extended the demand for child care. Second, initiation of the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Program meant that more low-income women were placed in school or training programs and, therefore, needed longer hours of care for their children. And finally, the increase in the number of homeless families meant a greater need for full-day services. Some homeless families housed in shelters were not allowed to remain in those residences during the day; many homeless mothers were busy locating service providers or potential employers during the day and therefore required safe places for their children to stay.

As grantees have responded to this growing demand for full- day programs for children, they have followed another important guiding principle. They have devised ways of meeting family requirements for longer hours of service by working in concert with other community agencies. As encouraged in the report of the Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion, Head Start grantees are "forging partnerships" among community agencies to ensure that their families receive these important services.2