Launched in 1965, Head Start programs promote the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from at risk families. Services are provided in a variety of settings including centers, family childcare, and children’s own home. Head Start programs also engage parents or other key family members in positive relationships, with a focus on family wellbeing. Parents participate in leadership roles, including having a say in program operations.
Head Start programs support children's growth in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include:
Early Head Start
Established in 1994, Early Head Start provides family-centered services for at risk families with very young children. These programs are designed to promote the development of the children, and to enable their parents to fulfill their roles as parents and to move toward self-sufficiency.
Early Head Start programs provide similar services as preschool Head Start programs, but they are tailored for the unique needs of infants and toddlers. Early Head Start programs promote the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of infants and toddlers through safe and developmentally enriching caregiving. This prepares these children for continued growth and development and eventual success in school and life.
Following the general Head Start model, Early Head Start programs support parents, both mothers and fathers, in their role as primary caregivers and teachers of their children. Programs assist families in meeting their own personal goals and achieving self-sufficiency across a wide variety of domains, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security.
Early Head Start programs also mobilize the local community to provide the resources and environment necessary to ensure a comprehensive, integrated array of services and support for children and families.
Children who are 3 to 5 years old are eligible for Head Start services. Pregnant women and children from birth to 3 years of age are eligible for Early Head Start services. Children and families who are homeless, in foster care, or receive TANF or SSI are also eligible for services. Head Start program staff determine eligibility. Some families may qualify for services if they are determined to be at or below the federal poverty level (below). Some grantees enroll a percentage of children from families with incomes above the Poverty Guidelines as well.
The 2024 poverty guidelines are in effect as of January 17, 2024.
|2024 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE
48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
|Persons in Family/Household
|For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,380 for each additional person.
How Do I Apply for Head Start and Early Head Start?
Contact the Head Start or Early Head Start program serving your community. They will explain the paperwork you should bring to apply. Your local program will provide the required forms and answer your questions.
Use this Find Your Head Start flyer (in English and Spanish) to find your Head Start or Early Head Start Agency.