Commonly Asked Questions about Early Head Start

Pregnant women and babies up to age 3 receive support from Early Head Start (EHS). Staff learn about administrative and program requirements for delivering intensive and individualized services throughout the first three years of a child's life.

The following is an update to the excerpt from...

Head Start Bulletin logo

by Laura A. Schad

How many years should children remain in Early Head Start?

Early Head Start (EHS) serves pregnant women and children from birth to age 3. Although a child can be enrolled anytime from birth to age 3, the intent of EHS is to intervene early and provide intensive, individualized services throughout the first three years of a child's life. Programs serving pregnant women are expected to enroll the newborn into child development services.

If there are two or more children from the same family enrolled in an EHS home-based program, how long is the weekly home visit?

The Head Start Program Performance Standards require individualized services for each child enrolled in the program. In the home-based option, services are provided through weekly home visits that are a minimum of one-and-a-half hours (90 minutes) long. When families have more than one child enrolled in EHS services, it can be challenging to meet the individual needs of each child in a 90-minute visit. Therefore, staff offer the family a weekly 90-minute home visit for each child so that home visits can be planned to build on each child’s unique skills and needs. Home visitors explore each family’s interest in and availability for longer or multiple home visits over a week. Home visitors and families plan together how home visits will be delivered to ensure that individualized services are provided to each enrolled child within a family’s schedule.

Can program staff, in addition to home visitors, organize and conduct group socializations?

Yes, other program staff and community partners are often valuable resources for implementing developmentally appropriate socializations for infants and toddlers. However, the home-based visitor who works weekly in the family's home should be involved in the planning and implementation of socializations for their assigned children and their parents. Socializations should reflect the goals and experiences that are connected to and build upon home visits.

Are EHS programs required to provide formula for children in center-based programs?

Yes. Depending on the length of time the child is in the center, EHS must meet between 1/3 to 2/3 of a child's daily nutritional needs. The cost of formula is reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Formula should be available during socializations if needed.

What is start-up?

The process of planning for and implementing program services early in the grant project is often called the “start-up” process.

Can newly funded EHS grantees hire a consultant to support their beginning phases of providing services?

Grantees may opt to hire a consultant to help their leadership team through this process. This may be particularly useful for agencies that have never provided Head Start or Early Head Start services. Hiring such a consultant is an allowable use of Head Start funds.

Is it possible to hire and train EHS staff during the start-up period?

All newly funded grantees need to do extensive organizational and programmatic planning to appropriately implement their proposed services by the award start date. Part of the planning includes how the grantee will hire, orient, and train staff so that staff can fulfill the responsibilities of their particular position in the EHS program.

Some newly funded grantees applied for and were awarded start-up funding for pre-award activity. Approval of start-up/pre-award costs is not guaranteed; they are negotiated at the time of award and are based on reasonableness, necessity, and the availability of funds. Examples of start-up activities are facility renovations, purchase of classroom supplies, building purchase, licensing, background checks, training staff, etc.

In a home-based option, is it acceptable for early intervention staff from a Part C agency to conduct EHS home visits when the EHS home visitor is not present?

The response to this question depends on the needs of a family and the type of partnership agreement that the EHS program has with their Part C provider. According to the Head Start Program Performance Standards, home visits must be conducted on a weekly basis throughout the year. In addition, the EHS program must be certain that all relevant regulations – including child development, parent involvement, health services, and social services – are implemented. A Part C provider may conduct EHS home visits in partnership with the EHS program or as part of a contract with the EHS program. In either situation, the EHS program is responsible for coordinating services that a child or their family may require as mandated by the Performance Standards, and for ensuring that the services are provided. The contract or agreement must outline and clearly describe the responsibilities of the partners. EHS programs may have similar home-visiting partnership agreements with other qualified community partners, such as home visiting nurses.

If a grantee or delegate agency has both Early Head Start and Head Start programs, should they have one or two policy councils/committees?

There should be only one policy council (for grantees) or one policy committee (for delegates) per agency. The representation of parents serving on the policy council or committee should be proportionate to the funded enrollment of each program.

Are EHS programs required to make 90-minute home visits to pregnant women enrolled in their program?

Pregnant women are not enrolled in a program option such as home or center-based. These are program service options for delivery of services to children. EHS grantees and delegate agencies serving pregnant women are required to deliver some services, such as prenatal education, while assisting in accessing others, such as health care. Plans for services to pregnant women are designed to meet the individual needs of each woman and her family. Through the family partnership process, EHS programs work with the pregnant woman to identify goals and make plans for meeting these goals. Although home visits may be an integral part of the plan for service delivery, they are not specifically required.

Can socialization experiences for infants and toddlers be held outside of the program's licensed setting, such as at a beach or park?

Yes, as long as the environment is safe and appropriate in terms of meeting the developmental needs of the children. It is important that socialization experiences be planned on the basis of the goals and subsequent needs of the individual children enrolled in the EHS program. Socializations should be offered in environments where children can be kept healthy and safe.

Are double sessions appropriate for EHS programs serving infants and toddlers?

No, double sessions are not appropriate for Early Head Start.

If state regulations allow 12 children under the age of 3 in a group with three teachers, can that supersede the Head Start standard of a maximum group size of eight?

No, maximum group size for EHS children cannot exceed eight children with two teachers. This regulation also applies to EHS children in community-based child care programs.

If parents of an EHS child have another baby, must the program enroll that child as well?

Not necessarily. EHS programs are required to develop recruitment, enrollment, and selection procedures. These procedures will guide the enrollment of children in the EHS program. Family income must be verified when any child is enrolled.

Can you count a high-risk pregnancy or a pregnant woman with a disability as a part of the 10 percent enrollment requirement for children with disabilities?

No. For a child to count toward the 10 percent enrollment requirement for children with disabilities, he or she must have an active Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) developed by the local Part C agency.

When is the first-year program review conducted?

A review of each newly designated grantee will occur immediately after the completion of the first year of operation.

What is the definition of a newly designated grantee?

A newly designated grantee is an agency that has never received a Head Start grant award prior to their newly funded award. Newly funded agencies that previously operated as delegate agencies for another Head Start/Early Head Start program would be considered a newly designated grantee.

Can EHS children transition into preschool Head Start if they are not 3 years old by the time of the state's compulsory school age requirement?

Since Sec. 645(c) of the Head Start Act does not preclude enrolling children in preschool Head Start who do not meet the compulsory school age requirement for their state, and Sec. 645(b)(7) supports continued preschool Head Start services for Early Head Start children, the guiding principle is that Head Start preschool grantees may serve children "as of their third birthday" under the following circumstances.

1) when the recommendation from the EHS and Head Start program is based on solid transition planning that takes into consideration the child's needs;

2) when the placement is developmentally appropriate for the child;

3) when the child meets the program's eligibility, enrollment and selection
criteria; and

4) when the preschool Head Start grantee/delegate agency has an approved process for selection and enrollment that supports enrolling children as of their third birthday, when appropriate.

Select the links below for more information:

  • Head Start and Early Head Start School Readiness Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Policy Clarifications
  • Early Head Start Tip Sheets

"Commonly Asked Questions about Early Head Start." Schad, Laura A. Early Head Start. Head Start Bulletin #69. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 2000. Updated by OHS, Nov. 2013. English.

Last Reviewed: December 2013

Last Updated: August 11, 2015