Your Guide on Head Start

Since a family with kids needs a lot of money, many people struggle with expenses like child care. Preschools are famous for being expensive. They actually have an average monthly cost of $889. This means that a family might spend over $10,000 a year for preschool! That is why the government provides programs, like Head Start, to help people deal with this hefty expense.

Understanding the Head Start Program

Head Start refers to a group of supportive programs that aims to help low-income families with childcare expenses. Infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged low-income children who qualify can get assistance from Head Start programs to help them get ready for school. These programs can take place in a variety of places, including family child care facilities, children’s homes, and more. They do not just focus on the kids–they also encourage parents and other relevant family members to develop healthy relationships for the sake of the family. Furthermore, parents may have the option to assume leadership positions and influence how the program is run.

From birth to the age of five, eligible low-income children can participate in Head Start programs for no cost. Registered children may even have access to transportation services so they can participate in the program regularly, depending on the Head Start program. Children with disabilities, children with special needs, children in foster care, and families (as well as children) experiencing homelessness can all participate in Head Start programs.

Head Start programs are available all around the country. As a matter of fact, these programs can offer support services through 1,600 organizations that are based in local communities. Head Start programs are usually available through schools, non-profit organizations, and community action agencies. Millions of children have benefited from these programs, and over one million children receive assistance each year across the country.

How Does Head Start Help?

Head Start programs achieve their goals by working on three important aspects of children’s lives:

  • Development and Learning in the Early Years
  • Family Wellness
  • Health Status

Development and Learning in the Early Years

Since children learn a lot from their surroundings, Head Start programs focus on enhancing a child’s preparation for school. These programs recognize the value of adult interactions and well-planned yet enjoyable learning. As a result, they work on developing a variety of areas, including:

  • Social Skills
  • Emotional Health
  • Science Concepts
  • Language Proficiency
  • Mathematics
  • Literacy Skills

In addition to improving basic skills, Head Start programs also focus on enhancing the early learning experiences of children. This involves helping parents better understand their children’s needs. This way parents (or guardians, care providers, grandparents, etc.) will be able to provide their children with a customized approach. Moreover, these programs seek to make the kids’ transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible.

Family Wellness

Family dynamics differ from one to the next. Head Start programs are designed to help parents and families accomplish their goals by providing support services. Some families’ goals may include:

  • Residential Stability
  • Additional Education
  • Financial Security
  • Strong Family Connections

Health Status

We can’t only pay attention to the brain–overall health and development are important, too! Along with mental growth, physical health should be prioritized. As a result, Head Start programs provide children with a secure and healthy learning environment both indoors and outdoors. There are further health advantages, such as:

  • Medical examinations
  • Healthy meals
  • Medical, dental, and mental health services connections

In addition to focusing on young kids, Head Start programs can offer mental health counseling to families. Besides helping families concentrate on the needs of their children, this consultation can help kids receive support while dealing with trauma.

What Programs Does the Head Start Offer?

It should be noted that not all Head Start programs are the same. There are actually many different program types that relate to the needs of the community it is serving. These are some of the most popular types of Head Start programs:

  • Head Start
  • Early Head Start (EHS)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS)

Head Start

When most people hear about a Head Start program, they imagine something like this. Children aged three to five can benefit from this kind of Head Start program. These programs are usually provided through centers. The services provided, however, may vary based on the particular Head Start program. For instance, children and families may receive help from professionals such as educators or family service employees through home visits.

Early Head Start (EHS)

There are different needs associated with each stage of childhood. A five-year-old can eat carrots, but a newborn cannot. EHS programs were created for this reason. These programs aim to assist babies, toddlers, and even expectant mothers. Families can enroll their children in EHS programs up until they turn three years old. If they are still qualified for the program at that point, they would switch from EHS programs to Head Start programs, which are intended for kids between the ages of three and five.

Families that get assistance from EHS programs can generally anticipate receiving support at the child’s house through weekly home visits. This aims to support the family’s objectives and the child’s growth. Even prenatal support is available to participating pregnant mothers in this program. However, you should keep in mind that while services are often offered at the child’s home, Head Start programs vary by area, therefore other programs may be based in centers.

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start

As we previously mentioned, the community’s needs determine how different Head Start programs are. For this reason, AIAN Head Start programs were created. In 1965, 34 AIAN communities began to implement these programs. As a result, many kids have been able to receive proper assistance. AIAN and non-tribal opportunities have actually been available to help about 41,000 children of AIAN heritage thus far. AIAN Head Start programs can enhance children’s traditional language skills, cultural values, and sense of heritage since they pay particular attention to the community.

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS)

This Head Start option can be helpful to families that work in agriculture. These MSHS programs take into account both the families of migrant farmworkers and the families of seasonal farmworkers. MSHS has existed since 1967 and is funded to serve more than 30,000 kids currently.

Eligibility Requirements and Application Process

Since Head Start programs focus on those who are poor or at risk of becoming so, they do not provide services to everyone. They determine the level of poverty according to government determined Poverty Guidelines. You will need to check out the specific Head Start program in your area if you want to apply. There is an online Head Start Locator available for you to find the nearest program. If you need more information, you can call 866-763-6481 between Monday and Friday (from 8 AM to 6 PM). They will tell you about the particular requirements needed to enroll your child in your local program. Also, they will provide you with forms, answer any inquiries you may have, and tell you about the documentation you must submit.

Because of the program’s popularity and how much it helps families, there might not be enough room for your child. However, you should make sure that your child is added to a waiting list in case there is not an available place for them.

Bottom Line

The government offers a wide range of different alternatives for help with childcare expenses. People can take advantage of popular opportunities like Head Start programs that focus on:

  • Development and Learning in the Early Years
  • Family Wellbeing
  • Health Status

There are various Head Start program types, yet many people might not be aware of this. In addition to the standard Head Start program, there are:

  • Early Head Start (EHS)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS)

You should use the Head Start locator to locate the nearest program if you’re interested in taking advantage of this opportunity. If you need more help, you may get in touch with them at 866-763-6481.