Head Start is a program that helps young children between the ages of three and five grow up ready to succeed in school and in life. Programs work to meet high standards for delivering quality services to children and their families. Children who attend Head Start programs participate in fun activities while developing social skills. Head Start children also receive nutritious meals and the necessary health care in a safe environment.
Parents with children in Head Start participate in all aspects of the program. They help to govern, plan what children learn, and provide advice about needed services. Parents and other community members also volunteer in classrooms and other parts of the programs.
Head Start and Early Head Start welcome children with disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities are strongly encouraged to participate in their children’s daily routines and activities.
Head Start offers you a sense of belonging, other support services, and a chance to be involved in activities to help your whole family. You can take part in training classes on many subjects, such as child rearing, job training, learning about health and nutrition, and using free resources in your own community. Some parents learn the English language; others learn to read.
Head Start also offers assistance to parents interested in obtaining a high school General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or other adult education opportunities.
If you have a family member with a special problem, such as drug or alcohol abuse, job loss, or other family crisis, your family can receive help through Head Start.
Head Start staff members refer families needing help to medical, social welfare, or employment specialists they know in the community, and will follow up to be sure you receive assistance.
You can become a Head Start volunteer and learn more about child development. This experience may later qualify you for training which can help you find employment in the child care field.
You can also have a voice in the Head Start program by serving on various committees. Parents’ experiences in Head Start have raised their own self-confidence and improved their ability to make decisions.
Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting their development in a comprehensive way.
Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Many Head Start and Early Head Start programs are based in centers and schools. Other programs are located in child care centers and family child care homes. Some programs offer home-based services that assigned dedicated staff who conduct weekly visits to children in their own home and work with the parent as the child’s primary teacher.
Over fifty years ago Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Today 3- and 4-year-olds make up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start programs each year. Early Head Start was created to serve 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.
Just recently, many Early Head Start programs have been funded to partner directly with existing infant and toddler child care programs, resulting in higher quality services to all children enrolled in the child care program.
Head Start programs support children’s growth and development in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include
- Early learning: Children’s readiness for school and beyond is fostered through individualized learning experiences. Through relationships with adults, play, and planned and spontaneous instruction, children grow in many aspects of development. Children progress in social skills and emotional well-being, along with language and literacy learning, and concept development.
- Health: Each child’s perceptual, motor, and physical development is supported to permit them to fully explore and function in their environment. All children receive health and development screenings, nutritious meals, oral health and mental health support. Programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services to ensure that children are receiving the services they need.
- Family well-being: Parents and families are supported in achieving their own goals, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security. Programs support and strengthen parent-child relationships and engage families around children’s learning and development.