Office of Head Start

330 C Street SW
4th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20201
(866) 763-6481 Phone
(202) 205-9721 Fax
www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs
https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc

Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. The Head Start program is authorized by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 [PDF, 271KB].

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes, in a variety of ways:

  • Early Learning- Teachers facilitate individualized learning experiences to promote children’s readiness for school and beyond.  Through planned and spontaneous instruction, relationships with adults, and play, children grow in language and literacy, early math and science concepts, and social and emotional development.
  • Health- Children receive health and development screenings, nutritious meals, oral health and mental health support.  Programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services, and ensure that children are receiving the services they need. 
  • Family well-being- Parents and families are supported in achieving their own goals, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security.  Programs support and strengthen parent-child relationships and engage families around children’s learning and development.

Programs provide services to over a million children a year in every U.S. state, territory and in over 155 tribal communities.  Programs prioritize enrollment for children in foster care, children with disabilities, and children whose families are homeless.

Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Three- and 4-year-olds made up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start last year.  Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program.

Local Head Start services are delivered by about 1,700 public and private nonprofit and for-profit agencies. Head Start agencies design services for children and families that meet the needs of their local community and follow the Head Start Program Performance Standards. These agencies receive grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and are administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS). Some local communities and states contribute additional funding to expand Head Start and Early Head Start to include more children within their communities.

OHS provides oversight to the agencies that operate Head Start programs. OHS also provides federal policy direction and a training and technical assistance (T/TA) system to assist grantees in providing comprehensive services to eligible young children and their families.

Last Reviewed: February 4, 2016
Back to Top