Early Head Start programs provide family-centered services for low-income families with very young children. These programs are designed to promote the development of the children, and to enable their parents to fulfill their roles as parents and to move toward self-sufficiency.
Early Head Start programs provide similar services as preschool Head Start programs, but they are tailored for the unique needs of infants and toddlers. Early Head Start programs promote the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of infants and toddlers through safe and developmentally enriching caregiving. This prepares these children for continued growth and development and eventual success in school and life.
Following the general Head Start model, Early Head Start programs support parents, both mothers and fathers, in their role as primary caregivers and teachers of their children. Programs assist families in meeting their own personal goals and achieving self-sufficiency across a wide variety of domains, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security.
Early Head Start programs also mobilize the local community to provide the resources and environment necessary to ensure a comprehensive, integrated array of services and support for children and families.
Early Head Start – Home-Based Option
The full range of EHS services are provided to pregnant moms and/or enrolled children and family through weekly home visits. The home visitor provides child-focused visits that promote the parents’ ability to support their child’s development. These visits last about an hour and a half each. About twice per month, the program offers opportunities for parents and children to come together as a group for learning, discussion, and social activity.
Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP)
EHS-CCP is a collaborative partnership between Early Head Start and local child care providers. Partners consist of both family child care providers and center- based child care providers
Family child care services: Education and child development services are delivered to children primarily in a private home or family-like setting. Family child care providers operate sufficient hours to meet the child care needs of families and not less than 1,380 hours per year.
Family child care providers are licensed by the state, tribal, or local entity to provide services in their home or family-like setting. When state, tribal, or local requirements vary from Head Start requirements, the most stringent provision applies.
When there is one family child care provider, the maximum group size is six children and no more than two of the six may be under 24 months of age. When there is a provider and an assistant, the maximum group size is 12 children with no more than four of the 12 children under 24 months of age.
One family child care provider may care for up to four children younger than 36 months of age with a maximum group size of four children, and no more than two of the four children may be under 18 months of age.
Center-based services: Education and child development services are delivered primarily in classroom settings, which are located in an Early Head Start center, school, or child care center. Staff members also visit family homes at least twice per year.
Early Head Start centers generally provide 1,380 annual hours of classroom operations. A program that is designed to meet the needs of young parents enrolled in school settings may align it’s center-based program schedule during the school year with its public school and provide regular home-based services during the summer break.
The facilities used by a program meet state, tribal, or local licensing requirements, even if exempted by the licensing entity. When state, tribal, or local requirements vary from Head Start requirements, the most stringent provision takes precedence.
An Early Head Start class that serves children under 36 months old has two teachers with no more than eight children, or three teachers with no more than nine children. Each teacher is assigned consistent, primary responsibility for no more than four children to promote continuity of care for individual children. The program minimizes teacher changes throughout a child’s enrollment, whenever possible.