Eligibility (ERSEA)

Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA) tasks are some of the most important work performed by Head Start programs. ERSEA governs how programs determine eligibility, enroll children, and track attendance. 

Family Income Guidelines: Military Income

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides information that will assist programs in determining the gross income of those families with members in the armed forces. Family service staff will find this information beneficial in determining the eligibility of children of military families for enrollment in the Head Start program.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Poverty Guidelines and Poverty

The poverty guidelines, which are issued every year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services, are a simplified version of the federal poverty thresholds used for administrative purposes. Grantees often have questions regarding who is eligible for enrollment in Head Start and other social services programs. These frequently asked questions will assist them in understanding how to use the guidelines to assess eligibility and other questions they may have.

Welfare Reform Reauthorization

Former President George W. Bush signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 on Feb. 8, 2006. Grantees will find this information useful when recruiting eligible children for Head Start. The law reauthorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Basic Needs Budget Calculator

This online calculator enables families to budget their minimum daily necessities. Grantees may find this resource useful when assisting low-income families with their budgeting needs.

The Head Start Eligibility Final Rule Webinar

The eligibility final rule became effective March 12, 2015. The Office of Head Start (OHS) hosted a webinar for grantees to review this rule. It served as a refresher around OHS requirements regarding the determination and documentation of a family’s eligibility for Head Start services.

Block Two: Understanding the Hispanic Community In Your Area

Regulations on eligibility, recruitment, selection, enrollment and attendance in Head Start (45 CFR 1305), require grantees to conduct a Community Assessment at least once every three years. Grantees use the results of the assessment to determine the eligibility of children and families who will be given priority for recruitment and selection. This video provides a snapshot of a process and strategies that Head Start and Early Start programs may use to ensure that their community assessment includes specific data in addressing the needs of Hispanic children and their families. Note: This resource is under review.


Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA) systems provide for effective access to the program for children and families.

Note: This resource is under review.

Quick Tips for Establishing a Selection Criteria

The Head Start recruitment process requires full program enrollment. Grantees and delegate agencies can use this tip sheet to establish their programs’ recruitment efforts. Applications are to be taken from as many Head Start-eligible families living within the recruitment areas as possible throughout the course of the program year. This procedure allows for a waiting list to be established so that as vacancies occur, slots are filled as quickly as possible.