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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

Contact: Ted DeAdwyler
phone: (415) 338-1665

Head Start in San Francisco expands to help children, families full-time

Program to celebrate with open house, special announcement by top officials Feb.

SAN FRANCISCO, February 13, 2001 ---For the first time in Head Start's history, low-income parents in San Francisco now have a preschool program that serves their children on a day-long basis, clearing the way for mothers and fathers to hold full-time jobs, attend school or avoid even higher child care expenses.

"Life would be so much tougher for us without the expanded Head Start program," says 27-year-old Maria Morales, a single mother of two. Gabriel, her 4 year old, attends the Oceanview, Merced, Ingleside Heights (OMI) Head Start Center while she takes care of 15-month-old Christian, who was born with a severe disability and needs constant care. "There are a lot of other people with children you don't hear much about but who need Head Start just to make it."

Indeed, Head Start officials say, there are many in San Francisco's ethnic communities who say subsidized preschool programs such as Head Start provide a lifeline in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

"It is the working poor that need our help," said Greta Yin, program director of Head Start in San Francisco, now under the management of San Francisco State University. "They need the full-day slots so they can keep jobs. Many of them can't use our half-day program because they would have to take off work to pick up their children. That's why we have a waiting list for our full-day centers."

Head Start officials expect some relief may soon come their way as they prepare to hold an open house on Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. at Cadillac Head Start Center, 316 Leavenworth Street in San Francisco. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and S.F. State President Robert Corrigan will join federal officials from the Department of Health and Human Services for a special announcement regarding Head Start in San Francisco.

The open house marks a celebration of sorts for a beleaguered program that is making a strong comeback in San Francisco.

Almost two years ago the Head Start program was in trouble. The Economic Opportunity Council of San Francisco had just surrendered its management of the multi-million dollar program after being declared deficient by the federal government. The program had been cited by federal officials for deficiencies such as poor administration, failing to involve parents in decisions and not enrolling enough children to fill available slots. To make sure that the program continued serving the 1,100 children in San F rancisco, federal officials had to call on an out-of-town agency --- the Neighborhood House Association of San Diego --- to run Head Start locally as the interim grantee while San Francisco sought new applicants.

Management of perhaps the best-known social welfare program of the 1960s is now with San Francisco State University's Urban Institute. Already awarded a $7.2 million federal contract --- the largest San Francisco has ever received for the program --- San Francisco's new Head Start Program also has been able to earn a nearly $3 million grant to expand the program here for the first time in years. Now, 1,360 children take part in the free program at 30 sites around San Francisco and nearly half of the chi ldren are in the full-day program.

"We can truly say that there has been a turnaround with Head Start. So many more children in San Francisco will be better prepared to enter school and not fall behind," said Jean van Keulen, executive director of the San Francisco program and a leading expert on child development and special education as a senior faculty member at San Francisco State. "Although many families are better off now economically, there are still more families in San Francisco who really need the support of Head Start."

Head Start, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, was created in the 1960s as part of the federal government's plan to correct educational injustices caused by racial discrimination. Head Start was designed to provide children from low-income families with early socialization and education so they could start elementary school on equal footing with their more advantaged peers. Officials developed a comprehensive

program to meet the educational, emotional, social, health and nutritional needs of the children. Since many of the children are bilingual, Head Start employs teachers and aides who are bilingual as well. And Head Start is required by legislation to reserve 10 percent of its enrollment for children with disabilities.

Now a $5 billion program serving more than 800,000 children across the country, Head Start still fulfills its original mission. For example, visit the OMI Head Start site in the United Methodist Temple Church, off Junipero Sera, and the day begins with a nutritional breakfast and tips on brushing teeth for the three-, four- and five-year-olds. The largest of all the San Francisco Head Start sites, the OMI program serves 80 children in two half-day sessions (morning and afternoon) and one full-day sessi on. Class schedules include time for stories, working on art, talking in small groups and a nutritional lunch. In one classroom at OMI, child-size furniture is arranged to resemble a tidy living room and kitchen in a home. Colorful drawings by the children hang on the walls. A corner of the room contains a small library with children's books.

The children, who reflect the diversity of San Francisco, participate in indoor and outdoor play activities and are introduced to the concepts of emerging literacy. They are encouraged to express their feelings, to develop self-confidence and to get along with others.

"Head Start is not a babysitting service for children as many people might think," said Annie Williams, supervisor of the OMI center and a parent who had a daughter in the original Head Start program in 1965. "The children get a structured day and the staff serve as role models for both the children and the parents."

One parent at the center says she can see a world of difference in her child. "Gabriel now does a much better job of concentrating on what he is doing," said Maria Morales. "He will tell me 'See, I am a good listener.' Head Start is helping him with his social interaction skills so he will be ready for kindergarten and it seems to be working."

Head Start also addresses the importance of early identification of health problems in children. Some of the children have never seen a doctor or a dentist. The children in Head Start receive free medical and dental care, and get healthy meals.

And parents, many of whom earn less than $10,000 a year, are also closely involved. For example, parents learn about the needs of their children through participation in classes and workshops on child development and staff visits to homes. Many of the parents volunteer their time to Head Start, doing such tasks as cooking, telling stories or supervising play activities.

Studies have shown that Head Start children perform equal to or better than their peers have when they enter elementary school, have fewer grade retentions and have fewer special class placements. Also Head Start works with low-income parents to provide them with information and services they need to build a better life for their children.

For more information about the open house on Feb. 28, call (415) 405-0500.

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Note to editors: To contact San Francisco Head Start officials, call Ted DeAdwyler of the S.F. State Public Affairs Office at (415) 338-7110 or send e-mail to

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by Office of Public Affairs