What You Should Know About Head Start

This fact sheet provides basic information about the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Parents or staff looking for a simple definition of these programs will find this information useful.

Graphic of children on a bus

Head Start is a program that helps young children between the ages of three and five grow up ready to succeed in school and in life. Programs work to meet high standards for delivering quality services to children and their families. Children who attend Head Start programs participate in fun activities while developing social skills. Head Start children also receive nutritious meals and the necessary health care in a safe environment. 

Early Head Start is a program for families with infants and toddlers ages birth to three. Families who are expecting a new baby may enroll in Early Head Start. Families do not pay a fee for Head Start or Early Head Start.

Parents with children in Head Start participate in all aspects of the program. They help to govern, plan what children learn, and provide advice about needed services. Parents and other community members also volunteer in classrooms and other parts of the programs.

Head Start and Early Head Start welcome children with disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities are strongly encouraged to participate in their children’s daily routines and activities.

Related Articles

How Do I Apply for Head Start and Early Head Start?

Frequently Asked Questions About Head Start

Does a Child from an Early Head Start Program Automatically Qualify for Head Start at the Age of Three?

Related Websites

National Head Start Association
Learn more about Head Start and related issues.

Zero to Three
This organization supports parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
The center was created to strengthen the capacity of Head Start and child care programs to improve the social and emotional outcomes of young children.

What You Should Know About Head Start. HHS/ACF/OHS. English. 2010.

Last Reviewed: September 2010

Last Updated: November 13, 2014