Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. The Head Start program is authorized by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007.
Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes. Comprehensive development services include:
- Early Learning- Teachers facilitate individualized learning experiences to promote children’s readiness for school and beyond. Through planned and spontaneous instruction, relationships with adults, and play, children grow in language and literacy, early math and science concepts, and social and emotional development.
- Health- Children receive health and development screenings, nutritious meals, oral health and mental health support. Programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services, and 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.
Family members must apply directly with a program in their area. The Program Locator can help you find the program nearest you.
Programs provide services to over a million children a year in every U.S. state, territory and in over 155 tribal communities. Programs prioritize enrollment for children in foster care, children with disabilities, and children whose families are homeless.
Local Head Start services are delivered by about 1,700 public and private nonprofit and for-profit agencies. Head Start agencies design services for children and families that meet the needs of their local community and follow the Head Start Program Performance Standards. These agencies receive grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and are administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS). Some local communities and states contribute additional funding to expand Head Start and Early Head Start to include more children within their communities.