Early Childhood Development Services

Early childhood development services may include establishing and operating a child care center, providing child-care vouchers for children of families experiencing homelessness, as well as the provision of meals, snacks, and comprehensive and coordinated developmental activities. Children must be under the age of 13, unless they are disabled. Children with disabilities must be under the age of 18, and CCDF Lead Agencies have the option of serving disabled children up to age 19, but it is not required.

Which HHS programs might be used to provide these services?

Head Start and Early Head Start (HS/EHS)

HS/EHS is a child-focused, multi-generational program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. HS/EHS programs provide children and families with services related to nutrition, developmental, medical, and dental screenings, immunizations, mental health and social services referrals, family engagement, and in some cases transportation.

Who is eligible?

The children of families who are experiencing homelessness are categorically eligible for HS/EHS and are identified and prioritized for enrollment. The children of families experiencing homelessness can apply, enroll and attend while required documents are collected in a reasonable time frame.  Contact should be made with local HS/EHS programs to learn about space availability and waiting lists.

How is it financed?

Head Start grants are awarded from the Federal Office of Head Start (OHS) to local programs including public or private non-profit organizations. Community-based and faith-based organizations or for-profit agencies within a community that wish to compete for funding, are also eligible to apply for Head Start funding. 

Where can I find a local Head Start or Early Head Start program with which to partner?

Find a Head Start Office

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF can be used to provide a range of employment services and work supports, as well as cash benefits, to needy families with at least one child (or to pregnant women).  TANF funds may be used to pay for child care and other services and supports that help parents participate in training and get and keep jobs.

Who is eligible?

Each jurisdiction determines its eligibility criteria for TANF benefits and services.  Many families experiencing homelessness are likely to meet income eligibility requirements for TANF benefits and services. There may be additional requirements, including participation in work activities, associated with eligibility for TANF cash assistance or other TANF benefits. 

How is it financed?

Funding is provided as a block grant to each state, the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These jurisdictions have broad discretion to offer a range of relevant benefits and services. TANF agencies run a large variety of programs to address and prevent family homelessness, and, at times, form partnerships between the TANF program and other government or private stakeholders.  States have great flexibility in serving needy families, including those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. 

How can services be coordinated with homeless service providers?

TANF agencies, or community-based organizations they contract with, can offer comprehensive approaches that include multiple programs and supports, such as combining a housing benefit with transportation, childcare, and/or job placement services.  TANF agencies can also partner with local homeless providers to coordinate and streamline services delivered across the two service systems.  At the caseworker level, coordination can facilitate the integration of both housing and employment interventions, improving the performance of both service systems and enhancing the outcomes of families.  Co-location of staff can be used to help ensure vulnerable families are connected to the full array of assistance they need to achieve self-sufficiency.  Developing mechanisms to share client-level data can help both systems evaluate their performance in minimizing homelessness, increasing self-sufficiency, refining interventions, and improving the targeting of scarce resources.

For more information on the TANF-ACF-IM-2013-01 (Use of TANF Funds to Serve Homeless Families and Families at Risk of Experiencing Homelessness), visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/resource/tanf-acf-im-2013-01.

How can it be used to address housing needs?

Federal TANF and Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funds may be used to address the housing-related needs of families who are homeless or precariously housed, consistent with TANF rules on providing benefits and services to needy or eligible families.  Families do not have to be receiving TANF cash assistance in order to qualify for housing services, although those receiving a cash grant may use TANF assistance to pay for housing.  States may adjust cash benefit levels in relation to housing costs and/or provide a housing supplement to cash assistance grants.  Along with providing ongoing basic assistance, a TANF program can provide an array of non-recurrent, short-term benefits and services.  In order to fall under this category, these must be designed to extend no longer than four months and must address a specific crisis situation rather than meet ongoing needs. Also, TANF funds can be used in coordination with HUD’s targeted homeless assistance grants programs – the Continuum of Care (CoC) program and the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program – to maximize the impact of both resources.  For example, TANF could be used to pay for rental assistance while ESG is used to pay for supportive services to help a family remain housed. 

For more information on the TANF-ACF-IM-2013-01 (Use of TANF Funds to Serve Homeless Families and Families at Risk of Experiencing Homelessness), visit



In addition to offering a range of benefits and services, TANF agencies can serve as active partners in State, regional, and local homeless efforts, such as the Continuum of Care.  The expertise of TANF agency leaders can be helpful in ensuring state and local efforts are deploying the full array of available supports to prevent and end family homelessness.  Partnerships can also lead to the identification of strategies that TANF agencies can adopt to minimize homelessness among families receiving assistance.  

For more information on the TANF-ACF-IM-2013-01 (Use of TANF Funds to Serve Homeless Families and Families at Risk of Experiencing Homelessness), visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/resource/tanf-acf-im-2013-01.

Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)

The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is a multibillion-dollar federal and state partnership that promotes family economic self-sufficiency and helps children succeed in school and life through affordable, high-quality early care and afterschool programs.  Subsidized child care services are available to eligible families through certificates (vouchers), or grants and contracts with providers.

Who is eligible?

Children (age birth through 12) in vulnerable families are eligible for CCDF.  States also have the option of extending eligibility to children under age 19 who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for him/herself, or under court supervision.  While CCDF does not require prioritization of homeless families, States have the flexibility to broaden their eligibility policies to include homeless children and families and are encouraged to do so.

How is it financed?

CCDF is a block grant to States, territories, and tribes.  Additionally, States provide matching funds and may transfer TANF funds to CCDF.

Where can I find a local CCDF grantee with which to partner?

CCDF Tribal Grantees by State

Other HHS Programs

Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds may be used to provide a broad range of services and activities to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities, and empower low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become fully self-sufficient.  Grantees are required to conduct community needs assessments and develop community action plans to address local needs, including services and activities related to employment, education, better use of available income, housing, nutrition, emergency services and/or health. In most cases, CSBG funds are allocated to Community Action Agencies (CAAs). 

Who is eligible? 

The Federal Poverty Guidelines must be used as the primary criterion in determining income eligibility. In order to receive assistance under any CSBG project involving direct services, an applicant's total household income must not exceed 125% of the poverty level. Household is defined by the Bureau of Census as consisting of all persons who occupy a housing unit (i.e., house or apartment), whether they are related to each other or not. Total household income is based on income at the time of application.

How is it financed?

CSBG funding is provided as a block grant to States, tribes and territories.  States pass through no less than 90 percent of block grant funds to a network of local entities, primarily Community Action Agencies (CAAs), and some local governments, migrant and seasonal farm worker organizations, that delivery the services in the communities.  CAAs are non-profit agencies created as a network of entities by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.  States contract with CAAs to plan, develop, implement, evaluate and provide local services.  Contact the local Community Action Agency to identify partnership opportunities and to receive more information about how local CSBG funds are allocated.  To locate the local agency, please visit http://www.communityactionpartnership.com/index.php?option=com_spreadsheets&view=search&spreadsheet=cap&Itemid=188.

Where can I find local CSBG grantees with which to partner?

Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)

Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funding supports social services directed towards achieving economic self-sufficiency; preventing or remedying neglect, abuse, or the exploitation of children and adults; preventing or reducing inappropriate institutionalization; and securing referral for institutional care, where appropriate. 

Who is eligible? 

Each State or territory has the flexibility to determine what services (within the broad service categories) will be provided; set the eligibility limits (to low-income households) to receive services; and determine how funds are distributed among various services within the State.

How is it financed?

SSBG funding is allocated to each State or territory to meet the needs of its residents through locally relevant social services, through programs that help people to achieve or maintain economic self-sufficiency to prevent, reduce or eliminate dependency on social services. To locate the State office administering SSBG, please visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/ssbg-state-officials-program-contacts

 Where can I find SSBG grantees with which to partner?

SSBG Grantees by State

For more information

The Administration for Children and Families has developed several resources to encourage the use of child care and education programs to serve children experiencing homelessness. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/expanding-early-care-and-education-for-homeless-children

These resources may be used to support work at the State or community level on early childhood systems and services, or help to encourage a Head Start program or early childhood program to ensure that these young children are prioritized for services that support their learning and development.

Visit the links below for helpful information about serving children experiencing homelessness in HHS child care programs:

•        Letter from the Administration of Children and Families, the Office of Head Start, and the Office of Child Care

•        Policies and Procedures to Increase Access to ECE Services for Homeless Children and Families

•        Strategies for Increasing ECE Services for Homeless Children

•        Early Childhood and Family Homelessness Resource List