Bachelor of Arts
Head Start, Welfare state, Lorain County, Early childhood education
Head Start, a federally-funded preschool program for low-income children which also provides social services to parents, has persisted since its founding in the 1960s. The program has also received consistent public support since its implementation. Head Start’s popularity makes it unique in comparison to other welfare programs in the country. The United States’ welfare state is weak and underfunded when compared to other countries, the US lacks a comprehensive national welfare system, and the existing system exacerbates inequalities based on gender and race.
Despite the lack of support for welfare services, Head Start continues to serve children and families across the country. Head Start programs are available in every state, and 1,000 local agencies provide services to over 1 million children and their families yearly. The program has been shown to increase academic and social outcomes for low-income children well past the preschool years, and continues to endure in communities like Lorain County.
I present the findings from 15 interviews with parents, preschool program and Head Start administrators, and coordinators of community agencies that collaborate with Head Start. I find that Head Start has persisted in Lorain County due to its adaptability to county-specific challenges surrounding the lack of public transportation, its degree of embeddedness in the community due to organizational ties, and its adherence to the growing prioritization of academic preparation for kindergarten during preschool. I conclude by suggesting future research to better understand the link between welfare services and public transportation, and by making policy recommendations.
Rich-Awkward, Leah, "“Head Start Works,” But Why? Understanding the Persistence of an American Welfare Program" (2017). Honors Papers. 189.