Overview of Head Start
The Head Start, a federally funded community-based program, provides high-quality, comprehensive early education and support services to low-income children and families so that children start school ready to succeed. Head Start services address child development and early learning; medical, dental, nutrition and mental health needs; parental engagement activities; and referrals to social service providers for the entire family.
There are three types of Head Start programs:
- Head Start, created in 1965, serves low-income families with children ages 3-5.
- Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS), created in 1969, serves migrant and seasonal farmworker families with children ages birth-5.
- Early Head Start (EHS), created in 1995, serves families with children under the age of 3 and pregnant women.
The Head Start Program Information Report (PIR) indicates that during fiscal year 2011 Head Start, MSHS and EHS served 1,125,209 children and 16,710 pregnant women through 2,879 programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Outer Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and tribal nations. The 2011 PIR further details the following data on the three types of programs:
||# of Programs
||# of Children Served
||# of Pregnant Women Served
|Early Head Start
|Migrant and Seasonal Head Start
Age 3-5: 16,599
Age 0-2: 17,444
Background on Children & Families Served
Children are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start programs if they meet the age requirements and are from families at or below the federal poverty level, participate in public assistance program, are homeless, or are in the foster care system. Early Head Start programs that serve pregnant women are also required to provide prenatal support services to expectant mothers.
When more children are eligible for enrollment than there are funded slots, programs must follow their established selection criteria to ensure that priority is given to children whose families have the greatest risks and are most in need of services. For example, programs may choose to prioritize enrollment to children and families with key risk factors or high-needs demographic groups in their service area, such as teenage mothers.
Teen Parents Served in Head Start
Current PIR data of the number of children with teen parents served in Head Start is not available; however, the 2006 PIR indicates that teens under the age of 18 comprised 20 percent of pregnant women participating in EHS.
Additionally, federally funded Head Start and Early Head Start research and evaluation projects* identify teen parents within their samples:
Impact of Early Head Start Services for Teen Parents
"Although the Early Head Start programs participating in the (EHSRE) were not designed specifically for teenage mothers, they served teenage mothers and had important favorable impacts on the teenage parents and their children that they served. Despite the challenges they reported in serving teenage parents, the Early Head Start research programs were able to provide substantially more services to teenage parents than they would have obtained on their own in their communities. The programs also produced a favorable pattern of impacts on participation in self-sufficiency-oriented activities among teenage parents."vii
"Like other programs designed to increase self-sufficiency among disadvantaged teenage parents, the Early Head Start research programs succeeded in increasing school attendance among teenage parents. Unlike other large-scale programs, however, the programs also enhanced their children's development. Early Head Start also provided support for children's development if they had older parents."viii
"The evaluation of Early Head Start suggests that when programs put a high priority on providing intensive services and focus on child development while working with teenage parents on education, employment, and other issues, they can have significant impacts on the children's progress at the same time that they improve teenage parents' progress toward economic self-sufficiency."ix
Activities and Resources for Programs Serving Teen Parents
To support grantees in providing appropriate and effective services for pregnant and parenting teens, the Office of Head Start (OHS) provided support for the following activities and resources through the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC):
Information on Working with Teen Parents
Learning Experiences for Program Staff
The Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC) on behalf of OHS developed several online learning experiences related to serving teen parents.
Additional Information on Early Head Start and Teen Parents
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Early Head Start and Teen Parent Families: Partnerships for Success. 2006.
Description of Head Start Research and Evaluation Projects
- The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) provides descriptive information on the characteristics, experiences and outcomes of Head Start children and families, as well as the characteristics of the Head Start programs that serve them. FACES is funded from 1997-2013.x
- The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES) is a longitudinal descriptive study of a representative sample of 89 Early Head Start programs that captures family-and child-level information in addition to program-level characteristics such as program operations, services, and management and on characteristics of staff.xi Baby FACES is funded from September 30, 2007 – September 29, 2012."xii
- The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation (EHSRE) was "a rigorous, large-scale, random-assignment evaluation … [with] a research sample (17 programs and 3,001 families) that reflects the characteristics of all programs funded in 1995 and 1996, including their program approaches and family demographic characteristics."xiii
- i Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE). Data Tables for FACES 2009 Head Start Children, Families, and Programs: Present and Past Data from FACES Report OPRE Report 2011-33b, December 2011, p 33. [back]
- ii OPRE. Data Tables for FACES 2009 Head Start Children, Families, and Programs: Present and Past Data from FACES Report OPRE Report 2011-33b, December 2011, p 33. [back]
- iii OPRE. FACES 2009 Study Design OPRE Report 2011-9, June 2011, p. 1. [back]
- iv OPRE. Learning As We Go: A First Snapshot of Early Head Start Programs, Staff, Families, and Children, February, 2011, p. 108. [back]
- v OPRE. Learning As We Go: A First Snapshot of Early Head Start Programs, Staff, Families, and Children, February, 2011, p. 109. [back]
- vi Commissioner's Office of Research and Evaluation and Head Start Bureau (HSB). Leading the Way: Characteristics and Early Experiences of Selected Early Head Start Programs Vol. 1: Cross-Site Perspectives, December 1999, p. 24. [back]
- vii OPRE and HSB. Making the Difference in Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families: Impacts of Early Head Start Vol. 1: Final Technical Report, 2002, p. 349. [back]
- viii OPRE and HSB. Making the Difference in Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families: The Impacts of Early Head Start, Executive Summary, 2002, p. 9-10. [back]
- ix OPRE and HSB. Making the Difference: Impacts of Early Head Start Vol. 1: Final Technical Report, 2002, p. 351-352. [back]
- x OPRE. Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) Overview (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/research/project/head-start-family-and-child-experiences-survey-faces-1997-2013 accessed June 7, 2012). [back]
- xi OPRE. Learning As We Go: A First Snapshot of Early Head Start Programs, Staff, Families, and Children, February, 2011, p. 6. [back]
- xii OPRE. Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Study (Baby FACES) Overview (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/research/project/early-head-start-family-and-child-experiences-study-baby-faces-0 accessed June 7, 2012). [back]
- xiii OPRE and HSB. Making the Difference in Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families: The Impacts of Early Head Start Vol. Final Technical Report, 2002, p. xxiii. [back]