Annual report highlights the Head Start advantage

The Arizona Head Start Association’s recently released statewide impact report provides crucial insight on the needs of Arizona children, and sheds light on the socioeconomic circumstances early childhood advocates aim to combat.

More than 35 percent of Arizona’s children from birth to age 5 are living in poverty. Of the 15 percent of Arizona households with limited or uncertain food availability, six percent are hungry. Families make up an astounding 37 percent of Maricopa County’s homeless population. An increase in abuse and neglect reporting has more children living in foster care than at any time in the past 15 years. Multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), or traumas that have far-reaching negative effect on learning, health and behavior, are significantly higher in Arizona than the national average.

In looking for solutions to such daunting challenges, Head Start and Early Head Start programs take strides to break poverty and toxic cycles. Attempts to build new skills or change behaviors on a damaged foundation are far more difficult, expensive, and less effective. Stakeholders across Arizona are partnering with Head Start as the national model for enriched classroom experiences, positive interactions, nurturing relationships, health and family services and parent engagement.

Arizona Head Start 2016 Positive Statewide Impact Highlights
• Arizona Head Start programs served 22,440 children, 156 pregnant women and 20,848 families
• Federal Head Start grants brought more than $124 million into Arizona’s economy
• Arizona Head Start agencies generated more than $35 million in local community in-kind contributions
• For each invested dollar, Head Start yields an annual ROI ranging from 7 to 9 percent
• Arizona Head Start programs employ more than 4,500 individuals

Together, the federal Head Start and Early Head Start (EHS) programs provide “whole child, whole family” education, health, nutrition, and supportive services to poverty-level children from birth to age 5 and pregnant women. Arizona’s local grantees receive federal funding through the Office of Head Start, a division of the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Community-based organizations that administer these programs in Arizona include Tribal governments, local municipalities, nonprofit agencies, and school districts.

The Head Start Advantage for Kids
Head Start’s “whole child” model reaches far beyond school readiness to meet an entire spectrum of health, nutrition, and nurturing needs that enable learning. Constant investment in research defines and reinvigorates best practices and deepens the understanding of healthy development. Early Head Start’s focus on infants and toddlers along with prenatal care takes advantage of the early intervention window so crucial to remediating developmental delays and disabilities.

Head Start children make progress toward norms in language, literacy, and math with improved social-emotional, language, and cognitive development. They develop better social skills, impulse control, and approaches to learning with fewer behavioral issues than their at-risk peers. They are more likely to be immunized, receive dental and medical care, and have better eating habits. Recent long-term studies indicate that Head Start/EHS programs improve educational outcomes and increase the probability that participants will graduate from high school and go on to earn a postsecondary degree, license or certification.

The Head Start Advantage for Families
Head Start plays a transformative role across two generations with services and support for families struggling with poverty and adverse circumstances. Parents, caregivers, and pregnant women learn positive skills and receive guidance in building stable, healthy home environments. Families are connected to a full range of resources including assistance with job training or continuing education, counseling, and crisis intervention. Head Start families have access to community events, resources, and in-house trainings on vital topics from health and literacy to parenting and the importance of male role models.

Parent engagement is one of the most powerful pillars of Head Start, including opportunities to participate in program-level decisions and sit on policy-making boards and committees. Of the 18,508 volunteers serving Arizona Head Start in 2016, 86 percent were current or former Head Start parents. The Head Start advantage touches every aspect of family life. Head Start parents are more likely to increase their educational levels during their children’s early years than other at-risk parents. They invest more time in family learning activities, read more with their children, use less physical punishment, and have higher levels of self-sufficiency.

View the 2016 Annual Report

View the 2016 Fact Sheet

To find a Head Start or Early Head Start program in your community, visit