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Head Start Backs Legislation to Treat Childhood Trauma

June 11, 2019

RISE from Trauma Act Recognizes Vital Role of Head Start in Supporting Children and Families 

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Head Start Association (NHSA) today welcomed the introduction of the RISE (Resilience, Investment, Support, and Expansion) from Trauma Act, bipartisan legislation in Congress that seeks to engage Head Start in supporting at-risk children and families exposed to trauma, including addiction and abuse. NHSA worked with the lawmakers leading the effort in the Senate—Senators Dick Durbin(D-IL) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)—to leverage Head Start as a part of this community-coordinated response to trauma. The proposal, which has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), would have a substantial, visible impact in the lives of Head Start children and families.

“Head Start is a safe haven for more than one million vulnerable children and families, many of whom are battling the storms of addiction and other traumatic experiences,” NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “The RISE from Trauma Act would better equip Head Start staff to respond to children and families in crisis. I urge all members of Congress to support this bill and engage Head Start’s family-centered approach in intervening to stop the ripple effects of trauma in our communities.”

The RISE Act would equip Head Start staff with the skills to better support children experiencing trauma by providing new training opportunities for the early childhood workforce. It would also create community-based coalitions to address trauma at the local level, building on the strengths of community-based programs like Head Start.

The bill builds upon provisions taken from the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act that passed Congress last year as part of a broader opioid-response package, the SUPPORT Act. That legislation included several provisions to engage Head Start in supporting children exposed to trauma, including a grant program to improve trauma support services and mental health care for children and youth in educational settings.

NHSA has also worked with congressional allies to provide resources through the appropriations process to support Head Start programs caring for children experiencing trauma. The fiscal year 2020 funding bill for Head Start that is currently moving through the House of Representatives includes $750 million for Head Start programs to provide trauma-informed care to enrolled children. These resources would support programs in increasing services from mental health professionals for families and the Head Start workforce; providing staff training on trauma-informed approaches to service delivery; and adding staff to Head Start classrooms to better respond to challenging behaviors from children.

For more recommendations on how policymakers could activate the full potential of Head Start in caring for children impacted by trauma, read NHSA’s report “A Head Start on Treating Our Nation’s Opioid Epidemic.”


The National Head Start Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 250,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Visit and follow @NatlHeadStart for more information.
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