Early Care and Education
Intro / Background
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (“Gandhiji”) –
My connection to the field of ECE and Head Start.
Full disclosure, I do not have a degree or licensure in early care and education. What I do have is 22+ years as a Head Start Director managing high-quality early care and education systems and services for thousands of children and families. During that time, I was selected and appointed to numerous state and national groups focused on the continuous improvement of child and family systems and programs. I came to this work because I have a deep commitment to service, and have gravitated over the course of my career toward the human services, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society. Among the most vulnerable are our children, and it is our children whose lives largely determine the future of our civilization.
Head Start is a federally funded and regulated child and family development program which has served more than 36 million children and their families since the program was launched in 1965. It is a robust program which has always been at the forefront of national research and best practice around child development and family engagement. Head Start is unique in that it is a two-generation, comprehensive services program, primarily for children and families with low income. The program includes both Head Start, which serves preschool-aged children and their families, and Early Head Start, which serves pregnant women, infants and toddlers, and their families. Comprehensive services include: early care and education for young children; health services coordination for young children and pregnant women; and family engagement and social service support for families.
I’ve always had great admiration and respect for the Head Start model. It is truly visionary in its multi-disciplinary, “whole child and family” approach. In my years with Head Start, I absorbed information like a sponge and never stopped learning about each of the core disciplines of the program. Similar to a senior administrator in a hospital, I was not the doctor, nurse or medical professional. I was the manager who saw to it that we attracted, developed, supported and retained such professionals, aligned our services with the needs of our communities, forged collaborative partnerships to leverage more for those we served, had well-functioning governance systems for support and accountability, had first-rate facilities and technology for those providing the services and those receiving the services, and more. Immersed in this world for more than two decades, this systems-level management and engagement enabled me to understand the local and national situation with early care and education, and to think deeply with many leaders, professionals and families, about how we might optimize these systems for the future.