Building Their Futures: How Early Head Start Programs Are Enhancing the Lives of Infants and Toddlers in Low-Income Families. Volume I: Technical Report

Published: June 15, 2001
Early Head Start
Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSRE), 1996-2010 | Learn more about this project
EHSRE Study Reports

Early Head Start is a two-generation program that provides child and family development services to low-income pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers. It also blends these services with a focus on staff development and a commitment to community partnerships. Early Head Start began with 68 new programs in 1995 in response to the recommendations of the 1993 Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion and the 1994 Advisory Committee on Services for Families with Infants and Toddlers. The program continued to build on its bipartisan mandate embodied in the 1994 Head Start reauthorizing legislation, with impetus added by the 1998 reauthorization. Today, almost 650 programs serve more than 55,000 low-income families with infants and toddlers. A rigorous national evaluation, including about 3,000 children and families across 17 sites, also began in 1995. This report, Building Their Futures, describes the interim impact findings emerging from the analysis of child and family outcomes through the first two years of the children’s lives.

The national evaluation, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and Columbia University’s Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, in collaboration with the Early Head Start Research Consortium, finds that a year or more after program enrollment, when compared with a randomly assigned control group, 2-year-old Early Head Start children performed significantly better on a range of measures of cognitive, language, and social-emotional development. Their parents scored significantly higher than control group parents on many aspects of the home environment, parenting behavior, and knowledge of infant-toddler development. Early Head Start families were more likely to attend school or job training and experienced reductions in parenting stress and family conflict.