Programs & Initiatives

In addition to providing policy coordination across the Office of Child Care and the Office of Head Start, ECD works with other programs and offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and across the federal government on various programs and initiatives:

Teacher working with preschool children in classroom.

Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge with the Department of Education

Race to the Top -Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) is a program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services/ACF that strives to improve the quality of early learning and development and close the achievement gap for children with high needs.

Detailed map of the United States of America

State Advisory Councils

ACF awarded $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for 50 State Advisory Council grants to 45 states, DC, PR, VI, Guam and American Samoa. The overall responsibility of the State Advisory Council is to lead the development or enhancement of a high-quality, comprehensive system of early childhood development and care that ensures statewide coordination and collaboration among the wide range of early childhood programs and services in the state.

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Head Start

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development. Over a million children are served by Head Start programs every year, including children in every U.S. state and territory and in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.

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Child Care

The Office of Child Care (OCC) supports low-income families through child care financial assistance, providing access to affordable, high-quality early care and afterschool programs. OCC also promotes children’s learning by improving the quality of early care, education and afterschool programs. OCC administers the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and works with state, territory and tribal governments to provide support for children and their families juggling work schedules and struggling to find child care programs that will fit their needs and prepare children to succeed in school.

Mother holding a newborn baby talking with a home visitor.

Home Visiting

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program responds to the diverse needs of children and families in communities at risk. It also promotes collaboration and partnership at the federal, state and community levels to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs.

Smiling girl getting her ears checked at the doctor.

Early Childhood Health

Effective disease prevention, along with promotion of healthy development and wellness, are best achieved with well-coordinated efforts starting early in life.  Disease prevention and health promotion, as well as linkages to health services, can be delivered anywhere children and families spend time: in the home, in communities, and in a range of early care and education settings serving children prenatally through age 8 such as child care, Head Start/Early Head Start, home visiting and after school programs.  Returns on investment for these coordination efforts are unparalleled; by addressing health and development early in children’s lives, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate the need for more expensive corrective measures in later years.

  • ACF Health Priorities to Support Safe, Healthy and Happy Children Who are Ready to Learn:
  • Asthma Prevention with Special Emphasis on Tobacco Exposure Prevention
  • Developmental and Behavioral Services
  • Health Literacy
  • Healthy Nutrition, Physical Activity and Overweight/Obesity Prevention
  • Injury and Maltreatment Prevention
  • Oral Health
Safe Sleep for Your Baby brochure cover photo of smiling baby.

Special Initiatives

The ECD office also serves as the liaison to a range of other federal agencies and other offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Initiatives and partnerships include:

  • Increasing Early Care and Education (ECE) Services for Homeless Children:
  • Look Before You Lock Campaign
  • Early Childhood-Child Welfare Partnerships
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
  • Crib Safety
  • Safe Sleep for Babies
  • Department of Defense (DoD) Military Family Child Care Liaisons