Eligibility (ERSEA)


Head Start eligibility requirements describe how to prioritize those most in need of Head Start services. The requirements can also help programs identify the option that best meets child and family needs. Use these resources to develop eligibility services that ensure consistent and appropriate enrollment practices.

Tools and Resources

ERSEA: Prioritizing Eligibility and Meeting the Greatest Need

Learn more about eligibility—the first step and a key component in implementing Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA) services. Find tips and guiding questions to identify and enroll children and families with the greatest need.

The Head Start Eligibility Final Rule Webinar

Use this webinar as a refresher on the Office of Head Start requirements to determine and document a family’s eligibility for Head Start services.


View this seven-minute video to learn about the requirements related to child and family eligibility. Explore the program requirements for the recruitment, selection, and enrollment of eligible families.

Head Start Eligibility Verification Form

This form complies with the eligibility final rule, Head Start Program Performance Standard (HSPPS) 45 CFR §1302.12(k). It was first made available through ACF-PI-HS-10-02, which is currently under review. Programs may continue to use the form to determine eligibility in accordance with the final rule.

Poverty Guidelines and Determining Eligibility for Participation in Head Start Programs

Use these Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines to determine families’ income eligibility to participate in Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Policies and Regulations

Program Structure, 45 CFR §1302 Subpart B

Explore the HSPPS around the requirements used to determine program structure. Program options include center-based, home-based, family child care, and locally designed variations.

Determining, verifying, and documenting eligibility, 45 CFR §1302.12

Take a look at this HSPPS to find the requirements around determining and documenting families’ eligibility.

Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance, 45 CFR §1302 Subpart A

Review this standard for grantee requirements for determining community strengths, needs and resources as well as recruitment areas. Find requirements and procedures for the eligibility determination, recruitment, selection, enrollment and attendance of children and explains the policy concerning the charging of fees.

Welfare Reform Reauthorization

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, signed on Feb. 8, 2006, reauthorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Use this information when recruiting eligible children for Head Start. 

Additional Support

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Poverty Guidelines and Poverty

Find answers to frequently asked questions about how to determine whether families and children are eligible for enrollment in Head Start and other social services programs. 

Further Resources on Poverty Measurement, Poverty Lines, and Their History

Explore these resources from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation to find information on poverty measurement and poverty guidelines.

Extending and Aligning Redetermination Periods

Learn how extending eligibility redeterminations to 12 months or more provides both financial stability for families and continuous early care and education for children. Explore how alignment of Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) policies on redetermination with other assistance programs simplifies the eligibility process, and saves workers' time and agency costs. 

Family Income Guidelines: Military Income

Use this resource to determine the gross income of families with members in the armed forces. This information can help programs determine whether children of military families are eligible to enroll in the Head Start program. 

Basic Needs Budget Calculator

Families can use this online calculator to budget their minimum daily necessities. Grantees can use this resource when assisting low-income families with their budgeting needs.

Last Updated: March 13, 2019