What is Early Head Start?
Early Head Start, a year-round program, serves children ages birth to three and expectant mothers. Offering a wide range of services that build social, emotional, intellectual, and physical skills in infants and toddlers, the program aims to intervene at the earliest age. Children and families also receive on-going health and nutrition services, including medical and dental exams. Parents are also able to benefit from the support of Family Service Professionals who assist parents with their own educational and vocational goals.
Who is Eligible?
Age: The Early Head Start program serves children from ages birth to 3 years old and pregnant women of any age.
Income: Early Head Start prioritizes families at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level. View the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines.
Up to 10% of the Early Head Start children can be from families who are above the income limits. They are accepted into the program because of:
- Developmental factors, such as developmental delay, disability, or other special needs
- Environmental factors, such as family violence, chemical dependency, child protective services involvement or incarcerated parents
Other: Children are also eligible for Early Head Start if they are:
- In foster care or involved with the child welfare system
- Have a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash grant
Benefits of Early Head Start
- Children in Early Head Start show significantly better social-emotional, language, and cognitive development than a control group of children, and are likely to be immunized and have receive disability services, if needed. (Love et all, 2002).
- Early Head Start children show impacts on social-emotional functioning that last through fifth grade (Vogel et al., 2010).
- Children who attend Early Head Start have significantly fewer childhood welfare encounters during their elementary years (Green et al., 2014).
- Early Head Start parents offer more stimulating home environments, read more with their children, use less physical punishment, and have higher levels of self-sufficiency (Love et al., 2002).
- Children who attend Early Head Start and transition to Head Start are more ready for Kindergarten than children who do not attend Head Start (Love et al., 2002).
This program provides services in two different ways to meet the individual needs of children and families:
- Center-based-setting - A year round program designed to foster all aspects of development.
- Home-based-setting - On a weekly basis, a highly-qualified early childhood professional visits families in their homes, working with parents and children together to support all aspects of development.
- National Head Start Association: www.nhsa.org
- Department of Health and Human Services: www.acf.hhs.gov
Green, B.L., Ayoub, C., Bartlett, J.D., Von Ende, A., Furrer, C., Chazan-Cohen, R., Vallotton, C & Klevens, J. (2014) The Effect of Early Head Start on Child Welfare System Involvement: A First Look at Longitudinal Child Maltreatment Outcomes, Children and Youth Services Review. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth2014.03.044
Love, J.M., Kisker,E.E., Ross, C.M., Schochet, P.Z. Brooks-Gunn, J., Paulsell, D., Brady-Smith, C. (2002).Making a difference in the lives of infants and toddlers and their families: The impacts of Early Head Start. Volumes I-III: Final technical report and appendixes and local contributions to understanding the programs and their impacts. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
Vogel, C.A., Xue, Y., Moiduddin, E.M., Kisker, E.E., & Carlson, B.L. (2010). Early Head Start CHildren in Grafe 5: Long-Term Follow-Up of the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Study Sample. OPRE Report # 2011-8, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.