What Head Start offers

Head Start is a federal program for children from 3 to 5 years old and their families. The main goal of Head Start is to help children from low-income families be prepared for school.

Head Start can help children with disabilities. Federal law says that each Head Start program must reserve at least 10% of their enrollment for children with disabilities. In order for your child to get special education services from a Head Start program, she must be eligible based on a federal law called the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA). 

Some of the services Head Start provides include special education for children with disabilities, plus health, dental, nutrition and mental health services. The services your child can get depend on her individual needs.

Head Start and special education staff from the local school district work together to provide services for children with disabilities.

In the video the agency referred to as DARS is now HHS.

Who is served by Head Start and Early Head Start

Early Head Start and Head Start programs are for:

  • Children with disabilities, no matter the family’s income. 10% of program enrollment is reserved for children with disabilities
  • Children from families whose income is below the national poverty level defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Children from homeless families
  • Children from families who receive public assistance such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Children in foster care, no matter the foster family’s income
  • Early Head Start services are also available for pregnant women with incomes below the national poverty guidelines

What you can expect from Head Start

If your child receives Head Start services, she will be in a learning environment that promotes her mental, language, literacy, physical, social, and emotional development. Head Start staff are trained to honor and support your role as your child’s most important teacher. Your Head Start program will encourage you and all parents to participate in their activities.

Places where Head Start services are provided include:

  • A facility such as a school or church that is home to a Head Start program
  • The family’s home
  • An in-home child care setting

Head Start tips and advice

  • Usually, family income will determine if your child is eligible for Early Head Start or Head Start, but local programs can make decisions about eligibility
  • Don’t guess or assume about your eligibility. Ask your local program about options
  • Early Head Start and Head Start programs are NOT available in every community
  • Some Head Start programs are for 3- and 4-year-olds, but some are only for 4-year-olds. Ask your local program what ages they serve

Find and apply for a Head Start Program

Find an Early Head Start or a Head Start program near you with the Head Start Locator  or call toll free at 866-763-6481.

Apply for Head Start by contacting the program that serves your community. They will give you the application forms and answer your questions. Ask them what documents you need to bring when you apply.

What if your child does not qualify for Head Start? You still have options:

1. You can contact the Child Find Coordinator in your local school district and tell this person your concerns about your child

2. You can find out if your child is eligible for Pre-kindergarten in your local public school

3. If you need help with financial assistance for child care, find your local Workforce Board and contact them to get started.