Early Head Start

Since the program was first authorized in 1994, Early Head Start research has examined the program’s implementation, its impacts on children and families, and a variety of special topics such as infant and toddler mental health, fatherhood and child welfare. With a particular focus on partnerships between the research community and local programs and the Office of Head Start, the results of this body of research help to identify and build on program strengths, continuously refine and improve practices, and promote healthy growth and development of low-income children.

Featured Resources

Projects on this Topic

The American Indian and Alaska Native Early Childhood Needs Assessment Project (AI/AN EC Needs Assessment) seeks to lay the foundation for understanding the need for early childhood services in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  The project outlines a series of designs for future studies that will inform a national assessment of the unmet need for early childhood care, education, and home visiting services (prenatal to age 5) in tribal communities...

The FPTRQ project  developed new measures to assess the quality of the relationship between families and providers/teachers of early care and education for children birth to 5 years of age. The measures examines this relationship...

As a national laboratory for early childhood education, Head Start has long emphasized continuous program improvement and has been a leader in developing outcome-oriented accountability. Head Start began developing program performance measures in 1995,...

The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation project, a rigorous, large-scale, random-assignment evaluation of Early Head Start, was designed to carry out the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Services for Families with Infants and Toddlers...

This web page pulls together research briefs from across Early Head Start research projects. Information includes findings on the implementation of programs, program impacts on children and families, and other information on special topics. The research briefs suggest ways for Early Head Start to build on its strengths to become even better in the future. We invite you to review and use these materials. Hard copy materials can be obtained from the Head Start Knowledge and Information Management Services at puborder@headstartinfo.org or you may call 1-866-763-6481

The Early Learning Mentor Coach Study (ELMC) was a descriptive study of professional development grants awarded competitively to Head Start programs. The Head Start Early Learning Mentor and Coach grants were funded in September of 2010 to 131...

The Head Start Bureau and the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation announced the award of five cooperative agreements in September 2002 as part of the Early Promotion and Intervention Research Consortium (E-PIRC). These four-year grants funded...
Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the largest single natural disaster in America’s history. Millions of people were on the hurricane’s path. About half a million people in New Orleans were displaced by floods caused by Hurricane Katrina...

The purpose of this study is to help the Administration for Children and Families better understand the experiences and perspectives of families and staff participating in Head Start and Early Head Start, particularly around the topic of family...

The goals of the Head Start Health Manager Descriptive Survey include 1) to describe the characteristics of Health Managers and related staff in Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) programs; 2) to identify the current landscape of health programs and services being offered to children and families...

Head Start provides comprehensive early child development services to low-income children, their families, and communities. In 1998, Congress determined, as part of Head Start's reauthorization, that the Department of Health and Human Services...

The overall goal of this year’s Head Start University Partnerships research grant program is to contribute to the knowledge base regarding the role that Head Start can play in promoting family well-being, including health, safety, financial...

ACF’s Hispanic Research Work Group brings together experts in a wide range of content areas relevant to ACF’s mission to assist ACF/OPRE in identifying research priorities concerning low-income, Hispanic families.

The Human Services Research Partnership of the U.S. Virgin Islands (VI) explored issues related to social service needs and public welfare systems in the territory. This cooperative agreement supported partnerships among researchers, local governments, and community-based organizations to define and evaluate research questions relevant to low-income people in the U.S. Virgin Islands and to both the Head Start and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

On October 23 and 24, 2000, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) convened the Infant Mental Health Forum in Washington, DC. ACYF undertook the planning of the Infant Mental Health Forum in response to questions from program staff...

ACF launched the Integrated Approaches to Supporting Child Development and Improving Family Economic Security project in September 2015. The goal of the project is to improve understanding of approaches that intentionally combine intensive, high quality, adult-focused services with intensive, high-quality, child-focused programs. Conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, this project will provide options for evaluating these emerging models...

 

The National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) documented the nation's utilization and availability of early care and education (including school-age care) in 2012, in order to deepen the understanding of the extent to which families' needs and preferences coordinate well with provider's offerings and constraints. The experiences of low-income families were of special interest as they are the focus of a significant component of early care and education/school-age (ECE/SA) public policy.

This project investigated how existing work on racial and ethnic disparities could inform more accurate identification and interpretation of ethnic and racial differences in programs administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Through this work, this project...

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is undertaking a descriptive study to document the approaches and strategies utilized by tribal organizations awarded cooperative agreements under the Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare...

In response to a requirement in the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-134), ACF initiated this project in 2008 to develop a report on limited English proficient (LEP) children and their families participating in Head Start...

The Language Minority Roundtable was a working meeting where invited participants engaged in critical dialogue regarding how research can support efforts of policymakers and practitioners to serve the language and literacy needs of young language...

Ever since the inception of Early Head Start, research has been an integral part of the program. At the same time the first Early Head Start programs began operating, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) initiated an evaluation...

Effect sizes are increasingly applied to describe the magnitude of findings about program effectiveness across a range of policy contexts. Though more researchers are recognizing the importance of including effect sizes in manuscripts, at times these...

The purpose of the Study of Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-child care) Partnerships was to gain a better understanding of EHS-child care partnerships aimed at supporting quality improvement, child development, and family wellbeing in early childhood settings serv­ing infants and toddlers. The project included...

Technology has become increasingly prevalent in early care and education settings, yet little is known about the effectiveness, function, and requirements for technologies that are available to early childhood programs. The purpose of this project was to review the knowledge base related to the use of technology to support the practice of early childhood practitioners who work directly with children and families. The review was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago...

In 1997, the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) was launched to provide descriptive, nationally representative information on the characteristics, experiences, and development of Head Start children and families, and the characteristics of the Head Start programs and staff who serve them. FACES has historically not included Region XI, whose programs are designed to serve predominantly American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children and families.

The goal of the Assessing the Implementation and Cost of High Quality Early Care and Education (ECE-ICHQ) project is to:

  • Produce technically sound, systematic measures of the implementation and costs of education and care in center-based settings that serve children birth to age 5
  • Produce implementation and cost measures that can be used with existing measures of quality to examine the variation in ECE center capacities and resources that can make a difference in the experiences of children

Project Overview

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Implementation Research and Evaluation Grants program provides CCDF Lead Agencies the opportunity to (1) plan for and (2) evaluate initiatives and policies related to the CCDBG Act of 2014.

​​​​The Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) Project is a contract to support the provision of expert consultation, assessment, and analysis in child care and early education policy and research to the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The CCEEPRA project conducts various activities related to...

OPRE’s child and family development work includes research and evaluation projects primarily concerned with child care and child welfare. This portfolio additionally examines the culturally diverse experiences of children and families served by ACF programs.

The purpose of this project is to explore how child care and Head Start programs can improve the quality of services received by young children, while institutionalizing continuous quality improvement activities. The project will design and assess the feasibility of implementing a specific approach to continuous quality improvement (CQI), the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC), to promote the uptake and success of evidence-based practices around social and emotional learning (SEL) in both child care and Head Start settings.

The goal of this project was to develop a new measure that will assess the quality of child care settings, specifically the quality of caregiver-child interactions for infants and toddlers in non-parental care. The new measure is sensitive to the...

The Early Care and Education Research Scholars (ECERS): Head Start Dissertation Grant program is designed to build research capacity in and knowledge of effective early childhood interventions with low-income children and families. The grant program provides support for dissertation research conducted by graduate students working in partnership with local Head Start or Early Head Start programs.

The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Study (Baby FACES) continues a series of ongoing descriptive studies aimed at maintaining an up-to-date, extensive knowledge base to support Early Head Start policies and programs. Building on the findings from the Survey of Early Head Start Programs, and similar in design to the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) , Baby FACES aims to inform program planning, technical assistance, and research at the national level by...

    Early experiences influence life-long health and well-being. A growing cluster of research on early adversity, trauma and toxic stress underscores the importance of both reducing stressors on the children and families ACF serves and helping them cope with these experiences. The Buffering Toxic Stress Consortium is...

    The overall goal the Early Head Start University Partnerships research grant program is to contribute to the knowledge base regarding how Early Head Start (EHS) and other early care and education programs can promote and improve early child development by supporting both parenting and caregiving. Researchers are working in partnership with one or more EHS center-based programs and/or EHS-Child Care Partnership programs...

    Project Overview

    Since its origins, Head Start has emphasized delivering comprehensive services that align with children and families’ diverse strengths and needs. A strength of Head Start’s approach has been its dual focus on offering comprehensive services that support both children and their families to improve child development in the long-term: coupling early care and education, nutrition, health, and social supports for children with parenting, self-sufficiency, health/mental health, and leadership services for parents.

    In 1997, the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) was launched to provide descriptive, nationally representative information on the characteristics, experiences, and development of Head Start children and families, and the characteristics of the Head Start programs and staff who serve them.

    The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation worked in conjunction with the Office of Head Start and the Employment and Training Administration to develop, pilot, and implement a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Supplement to the National Agricultural Workers’ Survey (NAWS) from 2009-2016. Even after the supplement was discontinued, the NAWS continues to provide extensive reports of demographic data regarding migrant and seasonal agricultural young children whose families are eligible for MSHS.

    The Network of infant/toddler Researchers (NitR) consortium brings together leading applied researchers with policymakers and technical assistance providers responsible for overseeing and supporting early childhood programs serving families during pregnancy and the first three years of life.

    The Q-CCIIT PD Tools project developed a research-based professional development system called We Grow Together. As part of We Grow Together, teachers and caregivers work with their professional development providers (mentors, coaches, supervisors) using resources delivered on an interactive website.

    In 2013, OPRE commissioned four interrelated reports on self-regulation and toxic stress from a team at the Center for Child and Social Policy at Duke University. That team and other experts have since created multiple practice-oriented resources grounded in the initial reports. Together, these reports and resources comprise the ’Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series.’ 

    The Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT) observation tool is a reliable and valid research-based observational tool that measures the quality of interactions between infants and toddlers...

    The goal of the Touchpoints for Addressing Substance Use Issues in Home Visiting project is to generate knowledge about how home visiting programs, including those funded through HRSA’s and ACF's Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, engage and support families around prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use issues. The project will identify evidence-informed practices for working with families, supporting frontline staff, and building collaborations with referral sources.