The Head Start Program and Its Benefits

About

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth through ages five that is available to families with incomes no more than 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The program provides a learning environment that supports the cognitive, social, and emotional development of participating children.

Many Head Start programs also offer Early Head Start, which serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women and their families who have incomes below the federal poverty level. To learn more about Head Start, visit Benefits.gov.

Benefits of Head Start

Did you know that children participating in Head Start programs have increased access to health care and improved physical health throughout their lifetimes? Evidence shows that Head Start children:

    • were served more fruits, vegetables, and milk and fewer sweetened beverages and other sweets and snacks, when compared to other child care sites;
    • are three times as likely to have healthy eating patterns as non-participants;
    • who received 60 minutes of outdoor playtime were 42% less likely to be obese at the end of the program year;
    • received sleep health interventions that increased their sleep duration and decreased their behavioral sleep problems;
    • had access to regular screenings, immunizations, well-child visits, dental and nutrition services, healthy meals, and social service programs such as SNAP and WIC; and
    • were less likely to be hospitalized for accident or injury, missed fewer school days, and had fewer emergency hospital visits.

Apply for Head Start

If you are interested in applying, contact a local program that is serving your community. To find a program near you, use the Head Start Center Locator tool featured on the Benefits.gov website. The program will provide all required forms and answer your questions.

To be eligible, your household must make an income lower than specific annual income limits. These limits vary by household size. Visit Benefits.gov to see if your family is eligible.

More Information

To learn more, view this handout by the National Head Start Association.

 

Image: An early learning professional sits on the ground with three children, playing together with small wooden toys.

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

 

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