General FAQ

What is the difference between Head Start and other early childhood programs? 
Head Start is a two-generational program for children and families that promotes school readiness by providing comprehensive services to support healthy child development. Staff partner with families to engage them in their children’s learning and make progress toward their own educational, literacy, employment or other individualized goals. Parents also participate on policy groups that give parents real decision-making authority in the operation of their child’s program.

How do I know if a program serves infants and toddlers or pregnant women?
Early Head Start services are available in some but not all communities. Check with your local program.

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What kind of program will Head Start provide for my child?
Programs offer different enrollment options:

Center-Based Option: Most programs provide part-day classrooms for preschool children. Preschool classes generally operate several hours a day from September to May or early June. Many programs also provide extended day and/or full-year options for working families. Classrooms may be available for infants and toddlers if the program offers Early Head Start services. Early Head Start is open on a year-round basis.

Home-Based Option: Your child will receive services in your home. In addition to home visits, socialization groups are offered in an early childhood setting at least twice a month so you and your child can spend time with other families with young children to talk about topics of interest to parents while children socialize. Some Early Head Start programs also offer home visits to pregnant mothers and their families. Home-based services are available during the school year for families with preschool-aged children and on a year-round basis for families enrolled in Early Head Start.

Family Child Care Option: Some programs offer Head Start services in family child care homes.

Talk with your local program to find out what is available in your community.

What will my child learn at Head Start?
The curriculum for preschool children includes language and literacy, math, science, creative arts and approaches to learning that will help children to develop the confidence, knowledge and social skills to succeed in Kindergarten and elementary school. Infants and toddlers will have opportunities to develop their language, motor, and social skills in early learning settings with caring adults who are responsive to children’s individual patterns of development.

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What if my child has special needs?
Head Start is an inclusive program and 10% of enrollment slots are reserved for children with disabilities. All Head Start programs have specially trained staff to provide additional support for children with disabilities. If your child has a disability or you are concerned that your child may have a special need, please inform the program when you apply. You may be asked to sign a release of information so staff can talk with specialists who have worked with your child in the past. While this is not required, it will help staff to meet your child’s individual needs.

Does Head Start provide meals?
Meal service is included at no cost to families because good nutrition helps children to learn and stay healthy. All children enrolled in Head Start centers or family child care homes receive breakfast and lunch – and snacks if they come for a full day. Children also receive snacks during socialization groups in home-based programs. Infants are fed based on their individual feeding schedules.

Will Head Start provide transportation for my child?
Some Head Start programs provide transportation services. Check with your local program to find out if transportation is offered in your area.

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Why does Head Start make home visits? 
We have found that home visits are a terrific way to foster a home-school connection to discuss your child’s development, goals and progress. Children are usually very excited to show their teachers where they live and listen to their parents and teachers talking together about what they do at Head Start!

What kind of volunteer opportunities are available at Head Start?
Head Start has an open door policy and families are encouraged to visit at any time and volunteer occasionally or on a regular basis. Volunteer opportunities range from parent-child activities to decision-making opportunities at your child’s center or on policy groups at a program-wide level. We will find a volunteer opportunity to match each family’s interest.