Head Start programs prepare America’s most vulnerable young children to succeed in school and in life beyond school. To achieve this, Head Start programs deliver services to children and families in core areas of early learning, health, and family well-being while engaging parents as partners every step of the way. Head Start encompasses Head Start preschool programs, which primarily serve 3- and 4-year-old children, and Early Head Start programs for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) serves infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children.
All Head Start programs are authorized by the Congress of the United States through the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. The Act describes the general scope and design of Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Section 636 states the purpose of Head Start: to promote school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. This takes place in learning environments that support children’s growth in language, literacy, mathematics, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills, and approaches to learning. It is accomplished by providing health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services to low-income children and their families that are based on family needs.
The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) are the regulations for all programs serving infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and pregnant women, including the requirements for the home-based program option. As described in the HSPPS, home visits and group socializations are guided by a research-based, home-based curriculum that is aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF).
The HSPPS are referenced throughout the Home Visitor Supervisor’s Online Handbook to help you become familiar with the unique and comprehensive approach of the Head Start and Early Head Start home-based program option. Your program will further define this information within its own procedures and protocols. In addition, this online handbook relates research on the efficacy of home-based programs, strategies for best practices, video examples for reflection, supports, and resources.
Terminology for the person who conducts home visits varies from program to program. This person may be called a home visitor, family advocate, or infant-toddler educator. In this online handbook, we use the term home visitor. The terms parent and family are used interchangeably throughout this online handbook, except where the law and regulations require that the work be done with parents. This includes all people who may play both a parenting role in a child’s life and a partnering role with Head Start and Early Head Start staff. This includes fathers; mothers; expectant parents; grandparents; kith and kin caregivers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents; guardians; teen parents; and families with diverse structures that include multiple co-parenting relationships.
National Centers:Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: February 17, 2021