Head Start & Early Head Start Overview

Download the Head Start and Early Head Start overview for more information about Head Start services and comprehensive approach

Since 1965, Head Start’s locally-run programs have been at the forefront in partnering with families and communities to give young children and their families from at-risk backgrounds the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. From early math and reading skills, to confidence and resilience, Head Start helps children build the skills they need to be successful in school and life. Head Start takes a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of young children and their families.

Depending on both community and family needs, Head Start services may be delivered in a center, at a family child care home, or as a home visiting model. Regardless of the model, there are five high-quality elements that are the essential to Head Start. Here’s the overview:


A Head Start education relies on research-based curriculum and social-emotional learning in order to achieve kindergarten readiness through developing literacy, exploring numeracy, and establishing a love of learning.


Head Start’s health services, including mental health and dental health, ensure that children have access to health insurance, regular screenings and checkups, and medical/dental homes. Programs work with families to streamline the process for accessing necessary medical attention, prevention, and intervention services.


The nutrition services provided by Head Start programs provide children with access to daily healthy food; develop connections to programs, such as SNAP and WIC, to address child and family hunger; and educate families about healthy nutrition at home.

Multigenerational Approach

Head Start’s multigenerational approach recognizes that the needs of parents/caregivers must be addressed in order for a child to achieve success after leaving Head Start. Whether it be job training, English as a Second Language courses, leadership skills, or financial planning, Head Start programs work with families to set goals, meet their needs and, ultimately, bolster long-term outcomes for children and their families.

Locally Governed

With its roots in the civil rights movement, Head Start programs are governed by the principle of “maximum-feasible participation” of local communities and parents/caregivers. This legacy continues through Head Start’s unique federalto-local funding structure and system of joint governance that includes prominent roles for current parents/caregivers.

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