COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Head Start Forward Campaign Overview

Social media image displaying a girlThe Head Start Forward campaign supports grantees in reaching more children and families and moving toward full in-person comprehensive services, as local health conditions allow. Guidance and featured resources will help programs make decisions centered on strengthening families and on the education, health, safety, and well-being of staff, children, and families.

Through webinars, guidance, and other resources, the Office of Head Start (OHS) will address areas of immediate concern to programs and will revisit them as conditions change. Topics include eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment, and attendance (ERSEA), mental health and staff wellness, health and safety considerations, and equity.

Introducing the Head Start Forward Campaign

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start, and Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs have faced and overcome unprecedented challenges. Together, we have experienced the effects of the pandemic in big and small ways. Together, we have demonstrated resiliency, innovation, and perseverance.

Together, we are moving forward.

Head shot of Dr. Futrell.

Watch the introductory video to hear Dr. Bernadine Futrell, director of OHS, announce the launch of the Head Start Forward campaign. This initiative will bring grantees together and provide information and resources needed to prepare for upcoming program year (PY) 2021–2022. Head Start Forward’s goal is to support grantees in reaching more children and families and moving toward fully in-person comprehensive services, as local health conditions allow.

The Head Start Forward campaign will help programs make decisions centered on strengthening families and on the education, health, safety, and well-being of staff, children, and families. OHS anticipates the Head Start Forward campaign will support grantees in planning for and in making reasonable decisions and using available flexibilities in PY 2020–2021.

Head Start Forward Webinar Series

This five-part webinar series supports Head Start programs in moving toward fully operational, in-person comprehensive services, as local health conditions allow. Guidance and featured resources will help programs make decisions centered on strengthening families and on the education, health, safety, and well-being of staff, children, and families. Each webinar explores OHS's expectations for offering Head Start and Early Head Start services in PY 2021–2022. OHS will prioritize areas of immediate concern to programs and revisit them as conditions change.

Consolidated Q&As from the Head Start Forward Webinar Series
Throughout this series, OHS has responded to a variety of operational and policy questions. OHS has also clarified expectations outlined in PI 21-04 and addressed FAQs from the field as programs continue to return to full in-person services. Review this compilation of Q&As from the Head Start Forward webinar series.

Disclaimer: In light of the Omicron variant, the Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs Interim Final Rule with Comment Period, and the new Head Start Enrollment Forward series, OHS cautions that while majority of the information included in these FAQs remains factual, some pieces may no longer be accurate or up-to-date. For the most up to date guidance, please consult OHS COVID-19 Updates.

Additional Resources

ACF-PI-HS-21-04 OHS Expectations for Head Start Programs in PY 2021–2022
Review OHS's expectations for programs as they work toward full enrollment and providing in-person comprehensive services for all enrolled children in PY 2021–2022.

ACF-PI-HS-21-03 FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Funding Increase for Head Start Programs
Discover activities grantees can consider as they continue supporting children and families and investing in safe and high-quality early childhood learning opportunities using ARP funds.

#HeadStartForward Social Media Toolkit

Explore ways to use social media to promote the Head Start Forward campaign and returning to full in-person services. Learn more about using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with the Head Start community. Programs can adapt the sample messages below and share them along with the images in the download files. There is also some bonus content, including Zoom meeting backgrounds and toolkits in Somali, Arabic, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.