Early Head Start & Head Start

The federal program, Head Start (HS) has served over 30 million low-income children and families in communities across the entire country since 1965, and continues to serve over a million children every year. Head Start, which serves 3- and 4-year-old preschoolers, and Early Head Start, which serves children up to age 3, are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and delivers comprehensive early learning, health, nutrition and family support services to low-income children from birth to age five. Children receiving Head Start services develop the skills that set them up for success once they transition to school. Within the variety of service models made available by Head Start, children access early learning, health, developmental and behavioral screenings, health and safety services, social and emotional development, nutrition, family goal-setting, social services, transition services, and services for children with disabilities.

Despite the many children served by Head Start and Early Head Start (HS—EHS) every year in urban, rural, migrant, American Indian and Alaska Native communities and the territories, the need for wrap-around early learning services exceeds the current capacity of Head Start and Early Head Start. As of 2013, only 42% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds can participate in Head Start, and only 4% of eligible infants and toddlers can participate in Early Head Start, with several children never getting off of long wait lists for a slot.

One recent innovation that builds on the existing strengths of EHS are the Early Head Start—Child Care Partnerships (EHS—CCP). EHS—CCP is a competitive grant opportunity to support Early Head Start grantees that partner with child care providers. Federal support for child care comes in the form of state block grants administered by the Office of Child Care through the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). Since standalone EHS grantees are unable to provide full-day services, pairing up with childcare subsidies from CCDF leads to integrated, high-quality and comprehensive programs, thus making better use of federal funding for disadvantaged children and families. Due to the adherence to the Head Start Performance Standards, EHS—CCPs benefit from an increase in quality. With EHS—CCP, EHS grantees can partner with regulated center-based or family child care providers who agree to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Technical assistance was provided for recipients of the grant in order to guide implementation to fidelity. The result of these partnerships is that upwards of 40,000 additional children are receiving EHS services, and parents have more options when selecting high-quality early learning opportunities in their community.

FFYF supports funding to help address the needs of young children from low-income families and is committed to identifying opportunities that will result in more children accessing high-quality learning opportunities. FFYF has a plan to leverage public support for early childhood education and care, which includes building upon the investment in Head Start and the expansion of the EHS—CCP initiative.