Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Head Start Accounts for One-Third of Child Care Programs in Rural Counties
Press Release

RELEASE: Head Start Accounts for One-Third of Child Care Programs in Rural Counties

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report that looks at the crucial role Head Start, a federally-funded program that provides early education and medical, dental, and family services, plays in rural counties. The report comes on the heels of CAP’s research last year which found that 58 percent of rural neighborhoods are considered child care deserts, compared to 44 percent of suburban neighborhoods.

Nationally, Head Start operates child care centers in 86 percent of America’s 1,760 rural counties. These rural programs enroll more than 175,000 children, employ nearly 50,000 staff, and deliver family services like parenting education, mental health treatment, substance use prevention, among others, to more than 110,000 rural families. A ten-state sample of child care and Head Start programs in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, and Texas found that:

  • One-third of center-based child care providers in rural counties are Head Start programs — nearly two and a half times as great a proportion in metro counties.
  • 48 counties would have no child care centers without Head Start.

“We’ve known for some time that Head Start plays a critical role in enhancing child development, but what this report shows is that, in many rural communities, children would lack access to an early education altogether if it were not for Head Start,” said Rasheed Malik, senior policy analyst for Early Childhood Policy at American Progress.

“In rural America, it is not hyperbole to say that without Head Start tens of thousands of children would lack access to a quality early education and thousands of families would have difficulty accessing critical supports like job training, parenting education, and mental health services,” said Leila Schochet, research and advocacy manager for Early Childhood Policy at American Progress. “Access to these resources are fundamental and too often missing in communities that need them the most. Head Start helps fill that void.”

Click here to read “A Compass for Families: Head Start in Rural America” by Rasheed Malik and Leila Schochet.

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Colin Seeberger at [email protected] or 202-741-6292.