Head Start programs promote the school readiness of preschool-aged children from low-income families. Services are provided in a variety of settings including centers, family child care, and children’s own home. Head Start programs also engage parents or other key family members in positive relationships, with a focus on family wellbeing. Parents participate in leadership roles, including having a say in program operations.
Head Start programs support children’s growth in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include:
- Early learning and development: Children’s readiness for school and beyond is fostered through individualized learning experiences. Through relationships with adults, play, and planned and spontaneous instruction, children grow in many aspects of development. These include social skills, emotional well-being, language and literacy skills, mathematics, and science concepts. Early learning experiences also include the cultural and language heritage of each child and family in relevant ways. Parents, including grandparents, foster parents, and other primary caregivers, are recognized as children’s first and most influential teachers. Their knowledge of their children is central to each child’s individualized approach. Additionally, Head Start programs work with families, school districts and other entities to facilitate a smooth transition to kindergarten for each child.
- Health: Health and physical development are crucial for early learning opportunities that require children to fully explore and experience their environment. Head Start programs provide safe and healthy learning experiences indoors and outdoors. All children receive health screenings and nutritious meals, and programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services to ensure children are receiving the care and attention they need. Children receive support for building resiliency to cope with possible adverse effects of trauma. Families also receive mental health consultation focused on each child’s needs.
- Family well-being: Parents and families are offered program services to support family well-being and to achieve family goals, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security. Programs support and strengthen parent-child relationships and engage families in the learning and development of their child.