Early Head Start: Everything You Need to Know

An Early Head Start explains the concept of a nationally-funded initiative for the provision of certain services to pregnant women and low socioeconomic group families who have young children. The aim of this initiative is to provide an enabling environment for these infants or toddlers to thrive while boosting the economic status of their parents/families.

Early Head Start programs offer services similar to the preschool Head Start Programs, but they’re tailored for the unique needs of toddlers and infants. These programs promote the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of toddlers and infants through developmentally enriching and safe caregiving. These programs support parents, including mothers and fathers, in their role as primary teachers and caregivers of their children. These help families fulfill their personal goals and achieve self-sufficiency across a wide range of domains, such as financial security, continued education, and housing stability.

Early Head Start programs appear with different options to ensure that families can live in a consistent, supportive setting that promotes strong relationships and offers the same full range of developmentally appropriate services and care. These options include:

Center-based services: Child development services and education are offered primarily in classroom settings that are located in an Early Head Start school, center, or child care center. Staff members also visit the home of each enrolled child and family at least twice per year. A program that’s designed to fulfill the needs of young parents enrolled in school settings may have its center-based program schedule during the school year aligned with its public school and offer regular home-based services during the summer break. A program’s facilities meet local, tribal, or state licensing requirements, even if the licensing entity exempts it. When local, tribal, or state requirements differ from the Head Start requirements, the most rigid provision takes precedence.

Home-based services: The entire range of Early Head Start services are offered through weekly home visits to every enrolled child and family. The home visitor offers child-focused visits that boost the parents’ ability to support their kid’s development. About twice per month, the program provides parents and children with opportunities to come together as a group for discussion, learning, and social activity.

Family child care services: Child development services and education are provided to children primarily in a family-like setting or private home. The local, tribal, or state entity grants family child care providers the licenses to offer services in a family-like setting or home. When local, tribal, or state requirements differ from the Head Start requirements, the strictest provision gets priority.

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