Head Start Services

Head Start Services

Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families in partnership with programs and organizations in local communities.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers and in home environments.

Comprehensive development services include:

    • Early Learning- Teachers facilitate individualized learning experiences to promote children’s readiness for school and beyond.  Through planned and spontaneous instruction, relationships with adults, and play, children grow in language and literacy, early math and science concepts, and social and emotional development
    • Health- Children receive health and development screenings, nutritious meals, oral health and mental health support.  Programs connect families with medical, dental, and mental health services, and ensure that children are receiving the services they need.
    • Family well-being- Parents and families are supported in achieving their own goals, such as housing stability, continued education, and financial security.  Programs support and strengthen parent-child relationships and engage families around children’s learning and development.

Parents or legal guardians may apply at their local Head Start or Early Head Start center. Our program has priority eligibility criteria that ensures that the most vulnerable children and their families are served. Special consideration is given to children in foster care, children with disabilities, and children whose families are homeless.

Head Start conducts annual community assessments to determine which program option best suites the needs of each community. All Head Start and Early Head Start programs follow the federal Head Start Performance Standards. Head Start programs in each community are required to provide a 25% non-federal (in kind) match, which can be donated cash, goods and services. This community support involves parents, community members, businesses and organizations to enhance services.

Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Three- and 4-year-old preschoolers made up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start.

Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start is available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program. Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services.

Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Programs may be based in centers or in home environments through the home visitation model. Early Head Start services are provided for at least six hours per day, whereas Head Start preschool services may be half-day or full-day. Another program option is home-based services, in which a family educator visits children once a week in their own home and works with the parent as the child’s primary teacher. Children and families who receive home-based services meet twice monthly with other enrolled families for a group learning experience (group socializations) facilitated by the family educator.

What is school readiness?

The Office of Head Start (OHS) defines school readiness as children being ready for school, families ready to support their children’s learning, and schools ready for the children who enter their doors.

Children’s school readiness is measured by the skills set out in the five domains of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework:

  • Language and Literacy
  • Cognition and General Knowledge
  • Approaches to Learning
  • Physical Development and Health
  • Social and Emotional Development

Families are engaged in their children’s learning and development and are poised to support the lifelong success of their child. Head Start recognizes that parents are their children’s primary teachers and advocates.

Schools become ready for children when Head Start programs, parents, and schools work together to promote school readiness and engage families as their children make the transition to kindergarten.

What are comprehensive services?

Head Start comprehensive services include:

  • Early Learning
  • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
  • Health and safety
  • Social and emotional development
  • Nutrition
  • Family goal-setting
  • Social services
  • Transition services
  • Services for children with disabilities

Comprehensive services are delivered in a learning environment that is individualized to support children’s growth in the five essential domains. A minimum of 10 percent of a program’s total enrollment must be children with disabilities. Additionally, Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family’s ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

How many children and families receive services?

Our Head Start (0-5) program covers fifteen counties in Nebraska and two counties in Kansas. Head Start has a funded enrollment of 338 children and their families and Early Head Start is funded for 48 pregnant women, infants or toddlers.