Head Start is a Federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start programs provide a learning environment that supports children's growth in many areas such as language, literacy, and social and emotional development. Head Start emphasizes the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher. These programs help build relationships with families that support family well-being and many other important areas.
Many Head Start programs also provide Early Head Start, which serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women and their families who have incomes below the Federal poverty level.
Children from birth to age five from families with low income, according to the Poverty Guidelines published by the Federal government, are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services.
Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income) are categorically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services regardless of income.
Head Start programs may enroll up to 10 percent of children from families that have incomes above the Poverty Guidelines. Programs may also serve up to an additional 35 percent of children from families whose incomes are above the Poverty Guidelines, but below 130 percent of the poverty line if the program can ensure that certain conditions have been met.
Pregnant women may also be eligible for Early Head Start.
Because many programs offer services to families that may qualify them under other local criteria, we strongly recommend you contact the program in your community for more information and guidance.
To apply for Head Start and Early Head Start, contact the program serving your community using the Head Start Locator tool below. Your local program will provide the required forms and answer your questions. They will also tell you what documents you should bring with you to apply.