The Importance of a Head Start Agency’s Mission Statement
I ask this question in many of my trainings. The majority of the time, participants cannot recite their agency’s mission statement (also commonly referred to as the Vision Statement), nor can they tell where it came from. In my view, knowing and understanding your agency’s mission statement is one of the most underused strategies in guiding your Head Start program into the future. After all, if you don’t know where you came from, how can you know where you’re going?
A Head Start agency’s mission statement is included in their bylaws. As in, knowing it is not optional. However, it is more than just required reading. It can help inform everything about your agency’s operations. From daily activities, to engaging with the local media, to your 60 second “elevator speech” when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”
In every meeting and with every new idea and proposal, the question should be asked: “How does this help our mission?” During the inevitable budget planning process, programs can be evaluated within the parameters of the mission. Afterwards, you’ll be better prepared to explain the choices made during that process.
So what should your mission statement look like? First of all, keep it mind that it is a fluid document, and can change over time. Many Head Start agency mission statements are modeled after the whole child philosophy, originally set out by the founders of the Head Start program. While worded slightly differently at each agency depending on the local conditions, there are many similarities, stressing things such as school readiness, community engagement, and family partnership.
Here are some samples from around the country:
In Sacramento, CA
The mission of the SETA Head Start curriculum is to provide a comprehensive framework that will increase social competency and school readiness of children by:
• Blending multi-cultural and anti-biased education
• Fostering development of the whole child
• Integrating self-identity, cognitive, language, physical, creative, emotional, and social development
• Reflecting and honoring the lives of children, their families, and their communities
In Southern Oregon
Southern Oregon Head Start prepares children and their families for success in school and throughout life.
Children will enter school healthy, ready to learn, and with age-appropriate skills by participating in Southern Oregon Head Start and Early Head Start (SOHS). SOHS will support family well-being and nurturing relationships between children and parents, and will encourage lifelong learning for both children and parents. SOHS will be recognized as the leader in our community in providing high-quality services for children age birth to five years. Our employees will be highly competent, well-qualified, competitively compensated, and dedicated to the work they do. SOHS will be well-managed to maintain high-quality services.
Pearl River Valley Opportunity, Inc. Head Start/Early Head Start, a community based resource, is dedicated to providing a comprehensive, culturally sensitive early childhood development program of high quality for low income children and families, including children with significant disabilities. Our mission is to impact communities through partnerships and resources to create more social and economic self-sufficient families and prepare children for the next level of placement.
Can you recite your agency’s mission statement? When is the last time you explained the value of the mission statement to staff and parents?