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Mission, Vision, History

The National Head Start Association's mission is to coalesce, inspire, and support the Head Start field as a leader in early childhood development and education. NHSA is committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life. We are the voice for more than 1 million children, 275,000 staff, and 1,600 grant recipients in the United States. Since 1974, NHSA has worked for policy changes that ensure all income-eligible children have access to the Head Start model.

NHSA's vision is to lead—to be the untiring voice that will not be quiet until every vulnerable child has access to the Head Start model of support for the whole child, the family and the community—and to advocate—to work for policy and institutional changes that ensure all children and families have what they need to succeed.

We envision a future where:

  • the Head Start voice is powerful and united;
  • the Head Start field is a valuable and valued partner and resource to early childhood development and education;
  • there is nonpartisan support for increased Federal commitment to Head Start; and, ultimately
  • our children are healthier; our families, empowered; our communities, stronger and more vibrant.

NHSA History

The National Head Start Association began as the National Directors Association in 1974. The directors formed the association to advocate against plans to close Community Action Agencies.

By 1975, the Head Start Parent Association, Head Start Staff Association, and Head Start Friends Association had been incorporated. The four affiliate associations merged to form the National Head Start Association (NHSA) in 1990 and expanded its mission to advocate for access to the Head Start model by the most vulnerable children. Each group maintained a separate identity through distinct membership categories. NHSA’s board of directors reflects this original affiliate structure. Its membership comprises Parent, Staff, Director, and Friend representatives from each of Head Start’s 12 regions.

Today, in addition to advocacy, NHSA offers a large portfolio of professional development services and programs for the entire early childhood community. These include the annual National Head Start Conference, the largest national event devoted to promoting quality in the Early Head Start and Head Start community, and the National Parent Conference, the only national event devoted to Head Start parents and families.