Head Start Act
About the Act
The Head Start Act authorizes Head Start programs, which promote the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from low-income families. Services are provided in a variety of settings including centers, family child care, and children's own homes. Head Start programs also engage parents or other key family members in positive relationships, with a focus on family wellbeing. Parents participate in leadership roles, including having a say in program operations.
Head Start programs are available at no cost to children ages birth to 5 from low-income families. Programs may provide transportation to the centers so enrolled children can participate regularly. Families and children experiencing homelessness, children in the foster care system, and children with disabilities and other special needs are also eligible.
Head Start programs deliver services through more than 1,600 agencies in local communities. Most Head Start programs are run by non-profit organizations, schools, and community action agencies. They provide services to more than a million children every year in every U.S. state and territory. "Head Start" includes several different program types reflecting the needs of specific populations within the community, including Head Start, Early Head Start, American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start.
- View the full text of the Head Start Act
Regulations and Guidance
- Download the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Head Start Program Performance Standards
- Download the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Head Start Program Performance Standards - With References to Homeless Children Highlighted (compiled by the National Center for Homeless Education)
- Download the federal interagency Policy Statement on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness