Head Start programs prepare America's most vulnerable children to succeed in school and beyond. 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, which serve infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) programs serve infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children.
All Head Start programs are authorized by the Improving School Readiness through Head Start 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 as promoting the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. This takes place in a learning environment that supports children's growth in language, literacy, mathematics, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills, and approaches to learning. It is accomplished through the provision of health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services to low-income children and their families that are determined to be necessary based on family needs.
The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) define the specific regulations for all programs serving infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and pregnant women. They also include the requirements for the home-based program option. As described in the HSPPS, home visits and group socializations are guided by a research- and home-based curriculum that is aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five.
The HSPPS are referenced throughout the Home Visitor'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 own program will further define this information within its own procedures and protocols. In addition, this handbook relates research on the efficacy of home-based programs, strategies for best practices, video examples for reflection, resources, and wisdom from your colleagues shared in the Voices from the Field video series.
Terminology for the name of the person who conducts home visits in the home-based option varies from program to program. You may be called a home visitor, family advocate, or an infant/toddler educator. In this handbook, we use the term "home visitor." The terms "parent" and "family" are used interchangeably throughout, except where the law and regulations require the work be done with parents. This represents all of the 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 (LGBT) parents; guardians; teen parents; and families with diverse structures that include multiple co-parenting relationships.
Last Updated: October 16, 2019