Article and photo submitted by Audrey Grayson
In his State of the Union address in 1964, President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.” Following this historic speech, Sargent Shriver, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1964 to 1968, brought together experts to develop a child development program to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children.
Fifty-seven years ago on May 18,1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson created Head Start — a program to help meet the emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs of preschool-aged children from low-income families. In his Head Start speech, President Johnson said, “I believe that this is one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this nation has ever undertaken.”
And here we are in 2022 celebrating the 57th anniversary of Head Start.
When I realized that Head Start was celebrating 57 years, I was curious about the history of Head Start in Brevard County. I contacted Dr. Barbara Moore for an interview. I moved to Brevard County in 1990, so, my knowledge of Dr. Moore’s role in Head Start was very limited. Dr. Moore very graciously allowed me to interview her in her home. She even prepared lunch. Those of you who know Barbara Moore, know that she is always very welcoming, and she goes out of her way to be accommodating.
Again, because I was not living in Brevard in the 1970’s, I was not aware that Dr. Moore taught school at Madison Jr. High School in Titusville. After going on maternity leave in 1971, she didn’t return to teaching, instead, she accepted a position as the Director of the Child Care Association. At that time there were three centers, one in Titusville, one in Cocoa and one in Melbourne. The Community Action Agency under the direction of Juanita Johnson, the former grantee for Head Start, but the Child Care Association replaced them as the grantee for the Head Start program in the late 1970’s.
I discovered that Dr. Moore was the President and CEO of an organization that many of you are familiar with, the Child Care Association. She told me that the Child Care Association was a coordinating umbrella agency for many early childhood related programs. Head Start was one of those programs. Early Head Start, Child Care Services or Day Care Services, and Before and After School were programs that were also administered by the Child Care Association. In addition, the Association provided prenatal services to pregnant girls via the Parent Connection Program. The goals of the Parent Connection were 1) to ensure that pregnant girls had access to the prenatal care they needed so they would have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies and 2) to ensure that the girls could continue their schooling. These were the Child Care Association’s core programs that were designed to be a continuum of care. A Director was assigned to each of the programs administered by the Child Care Association. The teachers were required to have a degree in Early Childhood Education. However, there were a very low supply of individuals with these credentials among her staff. So, Dr. Moore wanted to assist her staff and parents with furthering their education, but funding their education was an issue for both parents and staff. There was a requirement for one Teacher and a Teacher’s Aide for each class. She worked with then President Dr. Maxwell King and Mr. Walker, the Financial Aid Officer at Brevard Community College, these supporters worked with Child Care Association to enter into an interagency agreement which allowed an employee pursuing a degree in Early Childhood education to attend at no cost. The Department head was Dr. Barbara Young, she worked with Dr. Moore to identify the classes the staff would need. To help parents and staff get comfortable on a college campus, they held in-service and pre-service training at the college for all employees. Many parents and employees were able to attend college and receive degrees.
The expectation, back then, was that Head Start would prepare kids for school, but they discovered that many four-year-old kids from low-income families were so far behind that there was no way they could be prepared for school in a year. Many of the low-income homes didn’t even have books. The children were lacking many developmental skills, as well as medical and nutritional services. With this realization, they decided to prepare children earlier by working with the pregnant women and providing infant care for them. Keep in mind that the Association was working with pregnant girls already, the program would set these children on the right course from infancy, hence the continuum of care mentioned earlier. They would prepare the children with medical services and nutritional services, and other services they needed so that when they reached the age for Early Head Start, they would all be on a level playing field. The model was such that once that child aged out of Early Head Start, there must be a slot for them in Head Start.
Early Head Start and Head Start were a challenge to operate because they had so many components. There was a health component – all children had to have physicals, immunizations, and dental care. The Child Care Association had to coordinate all of that, as well as find agencies and Doctors, and other medical professionals to assist with providing those services. Then there was a nutrition component, the Association had to provide meals, in addition, they taught children and their parents about meal planning and preparation. Head Start encouraged parent participation, so there was a person in charge of coordinating events and activities to keep parents involved. In addition, they were required to have parents participate on committees, as well as to help them make decisions about their children. Then there was a decision-making group that was called Head Start Policy Council. They were the policy making group who made decisions and made recommendations to the Board.
Dr. Moore talked about the tough competition involved with obtaining funding for Early Head Start and Head Start. Local groups competed nationally for funding, so, they were excited when Brevard County was among the first counties in Florida to receive Federal funding during the first round of disbursed Federal funding. The funding she received was for 80% of cost, the other 20% had to be generated by the local community via collaborative agreements with various county entities. Dr. Moore always received support for the Child Care Association from several community entities including the School Board, the County Commissioners, the business community and the municipalities.
In 2015, President Obama said in a statement, “For millions of families, Head Start has been a lifeline. And for millions of kids, it’s been the start of a better life. Over the past half century, thirty-two million children have benefited from its early learning and development programs.”
I thoroughly enjoyed researching this subject and interviewing Dr. Moore. Thank God for community servants who give their all to help improve the lives of Brevard citizens.