COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Operating In-person Services

The Office of Head Start (OHS) expects programs to work toward full enrollment and full comprehensive services. These efforts are contingent upon U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health department guidance, and in consideration of local school districts’ decisions. The health and safety of staff, families, and children is the highest priority for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Discover best practices and considerations for providing in-person services as you move forward from the pandemic.

Explore the latest updates for more guidance and resources from OHS to support staff, children, and families as programs build back from the pandemic.

In-person Services During COVID-19

Bringing children and families back together after a long, unexpected break has many benefits. Programs provide routines and structure and prepare children and families for the transition to kindergarten. Parents can connect with other families for socialization and peer support. In-person services also allow for time and resources to update health and medical records and complete assessments or evaluations.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Resources
Vaccines are an important way to protect your health and prevent disease. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. We need to use all of our prevention tools to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Find answers to FAQs, tips for promoting and communicating about the vaccine, and details about how to get a vaccine:

CDC’s Updated Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning
On May 27, 2022, the CDC updated its COVID-19 operational guidance for K-12 schools and early care and education (ECE) programs to support safe in-person learning. It emphasizes the importance of layered prevention strategies tied to COVID-19 community levels and supports school and ECE settings to implement CDC’s recommendations. Please note, at this time, the Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) remains the applicable regulation for Head Start programs, except in those parts of the country where OHS is subject to preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders which prevent implementation and enforcement of the rule.

COVID-19: Risk Reduction Strategies
Explore seven risk reduction strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. 

COVID-19: Health Considerations
Watch our Ask the Expert videos and find more resources related to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission while providing Head Start and Early Head Start services. Find tools to ensure the health and safety of children, families, and staff. 

Transition Tips for Reopening Infant/Toddler Programs
Relationships and continuity are key to infant and toddler development. Programs preparing to open their doors and welcome back babies and their families can use these strategies to ensure a smooth transition.

Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation
Temporary closures or reduced operations of a building and a reduction in water use can create hazards when it comes time for reopening. The CDC has updated guidance with specific steps to minimize such risks.

Child Care Water Quality and Extended Closures
The EPA provides guidance to child care facilities on maintaining drinking water quality during extended closures. It also recommends start-up procedures when reopening to ensure drinking water is safe for consumption.

Recommendations for Performing Hearing Screening Safely During COVID-19
Review recommendations for conducting in-person hearing screening in a Head Start or Early Head Start center.

Supporting Children with Disabilities

Review strategies staff can use to support children with disabilities and their families after a crisis, emergency, or extended time apart.

Determine the child's priority needs and refer to their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Talk with families and service providers about their child's developmental growth, as well as any concerns they have during this period.

Consider addressing two or three specific goals. This encourages the child's independence and gets them ready for the next step. You might refamiliarize the child with a communication book, assistive technology, picture schedule, or self-help and adaptive skills to help put these goals into action.

Decide whether modifications or adaptations are needed. This increases a child's participation in daily schedule activities. Consider activities such as large-group learning, story time, and small transitions from one activity to another, as well as those that involve self-regulation skills. 

Support Children's Social and Emotional Development

In the wake of a crisis, children's responses to stress and change will vary based upon their temperament, resiliency, disability, and prior experiences with stress and transitions.

See Services for Children with Disabilities or Suspected Delays for information about supporting families when developmental concerns arise.