Head Start

The Office of Head Start (OHS) provides grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families. ACF’s Head Start and Early Head Start is a comprehensive child development program that serves children from birth to age five, pregnant women and their families. It is a child-focused program with the overall goal of increasing the school readiness of young children in low-income families. Head Start directly serves homeless children birth to five years old and their families in areas such as nutrition, developmental, medical and dental screenings, immunizations, mental health and social services referrals, and transportation.

The objective of the Head Start program is to promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of low-income children, including children on federally recognized reservations and children of migratory farm workers, through the provision of comprehensive health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services; and to involve parents in their children's learning and to help parents make progress toward their educational, literacy, and employment goals. Head Start also emphasizes the significant involvement of parents in the administration of their local Head Start programs.

View the program website

Head Start is specifically charged with reaching out to and enrolling children in foster care and children experiencing homelessness. For families experiencing homelessness, this comprehensive program, Head Start, is able to provide many of the critical services and supports for children and their families in need.

You can locate a Head Start Center in your city and state, access technical resources, and find out more about Head Start at the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center at HHS.

Funding Mechanism:

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start provides grants to local school systems and public, non-profit, and for-profit agencies.  The Office of Head Start also funds Head Start state level collaboration offices that help to coordinate partnerships and mobilize resources in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Improving program access to children and families experiencing homelessness is a priority focus area for these State Collaboration Offices.