Head Start

Head Start Services

Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. The Head Start program is authorized by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. In addition to education services, programs provide children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services. Head Start services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child's first and most important teachers. Programs build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well being, and connections to peers and community.

Local agencies receive grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Head Start agencies design services for children and families that meet the needs of their local community and the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Some cities, states, and federal programs offer funding to expand Head Start and Early Head Start to include more children within their communities.

What programs are offered by Head Start?

Pre-k team member testing a child

Head Start

Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Three- and 4-year-old preschoolers made up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start last year.

Another Pre-k team member testing a child

Early Head Start

Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program. Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services.

Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Programs may be based in centers, schools, or family child care homes. Early Head Start services are provided for at least six hours per day, whereas Head Start preschool services may be half-day or full-day. Another program option is home-based services, in which a staff person visits children once a week in their own home and works with the parent as the child's primary teacher. Children and families who receive home-based services meet twice monthly with other enrolled families for a group learning experience facilitated by Head Start staff.

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