4 Comprehensive Services of All Head Start Programs


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We often use the term comprehensive services in describing Head Start/Early Head Start (HS/EHS). The Head Start Act (Section 645a) requires programs to:

  • provide early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services that will enhance the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of participating children; 

  • ensure that the level of services provided to families responds to their needs and circumstances; 

  • promote positive parent–child interactions; 

  • provide services to parents to support their role as parents (including parenting skills training and training in basic child development) and services to help the families move toward self-sufficiency (including educational and employment services, as appropriate); 

  • coordinate HS services with services provided by other programs in the state (including home-based services) and programs in the community (including programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities and programs for homeless infants and toddlers) to ensure a comprehensive array of services (e.g., health and mental health services, family support services); 

  • ensure that children with documented behavioral problems, including problems involving behavior related to prior or existing trauma, receive appropriate screening and referral; 

  • ensure formal linkages with local HS programs to provide for continuity of services for children and families; 

  • develop and implement a systematic procedure for transitioning children and parents from an EHS program to a HS program or other local early childhood education and development program;

  • establish channels of communication between staff of the EHS program and staff of a HS program or other local providers of early childhood education and development programs to facilitate the coordination of program services; 

  • in the case of an EHS agency that operates a program and that also provides HS services through the age of mandatory school attendance, ensure that children and families participating in the program receive such services through such age;

  • ensure formal linkages with providers of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.), with the state interagency coordinating council as established in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), and with the agency responsible for administering section 106 of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (42 U.S.C. 5106a); and

  • meet such other requirements concerning design and operation of the program described in subsection (a) as the Secretary may establish.