As infants and toddlers grow and change, and as family needs evolve, diverse program options can support them over time. A choice of program options ensures that families can stay within a consistent, supportive setting that offers strong relationships and the same full range of developmentally-appropriate care and services. Program options for Early Head Start include:
- Home-based services: The full range of Early Head Start services are provided through weekly home visits to each enrolled child and family. The home visitor provides child-focused visits that promote the parents' ability to support their child's development. These visits last about an hour and a half each. About twice per month, the program offers opportunities for parents and children to come together as a group for learning, discussion, and social activity.
- Center-based services: Education and child development services are delivered primarily in classroom settings, which are located in an Early Head Start center, school, or child care center. Staff members also visit family homes at least twice per year.
Early Head Start centers generally provide 1,380 annual hours of classroom operations. A program that is designed to meet the needs of young parents enrolled in school settings may align it’s center-based program schedule during the school year with its public school and provide regular home-based services during the summer break.
The facilities used by a program meet state, tribal, or local licensing requirements, even if exempted by the licensing entity. When state, tribal, or local requirements vary from Head Start requirements, the most stringent provision takes precedence.
An Early Head Start class that serves children under 36 months old has two teachers with no more than eight children, or three teachers with no more than nine children. Each teacher is assigned consistent, primary responsibility for no more than four children to promote continuity of care for individual children. The program minimizes teacher changes throughout a child’s enrollment, whenever possible.
- Family child care services: Education and child development services are delivered to children primarily in a private home or family-like setting. Family child care providers operate sufficient hours to meet the child care needs of families and not less than 1,380 hours per year.
Family child care providers are licensed by the state, tribal, or local entity to provide services in their home or family-like setting. When state, tribal, or local requirements vary from Head Start requirements, the most stringent provision applies.
When there is one family child care provider, the maximum group size is six children and no more than two of the six may be under 24 months of age. When there is a provider and an assistant, the maximum group size is 12 children with no more than four of the 12 children under 24 months of age.
One family child care provider may care for up to four children younger than 36 months of age with a maximum group size of four children, and no more than two of the four children may be under 18 months of age.