Working full-time these days and having young kids isn’t exactly easy. If your child is too young for kindergarten, how do you look after them during the day? Your partner may be working full-time as well, and you can’t just bring a 3-year-old onto the job site every day. So, what is the solution?

You could enroll them in a private daycare or preschool program, but that’s not cheap. Depending on where you live and what level of care you desire, childcare and preschool rates can range from approximately $400 to $1,100 per month. With many general laborers on construction crews making slightly above minimum wage, the Head Start program is a great option for many in your situation.

What is Head Start?

Head Start is a federally-funded preschool program available to children 3-5 years old. For no cost, parents can enroll their children in the program that follows a typical preschool curriculum and basic social interaction.

The school days usually line up with your school district’s academic calendar, with many Head Start programs starting around 8 AM and letting out around 2 PM. Head Start teaches basic learning skills such as distinguishing shapes, colors, and letters. Although they cannot yet read, the children usually learn to recognize their written name by sight. A Head Start child’s daily routine typically includes two meals, playtime, and a nap.

Who is eligible?

The entry requirements are determined by your local Head Start office, but eligibility is often in sync with parents whose gross income is below the federal poverty line. This can range from $12,760 for a single-person household to $44,120 for an eight-person household. Children in foster care, children with special needs, and homeless children can also attend Head Start with no fee.

However, not all children at Head Start are subject to low-income guidelines. In fact, the program accepts many children whose parents’ income falls above the poverty line, but their acceptance rate is usually capped.

What if I have a child that is younger than 3?

Even if you have children younger than 3 years old, you are still in luck. The Early Head Start Program is available for children ages six weeks old to 3 years old. The eligibility requirements are determined by your local Head Start office, but many Early Head Start children transition into the Head Start program once they reach 3 years of age. Early Head Start functions as an early childcare solution for lower-income families.

Head Start and Early Head Start Statistics

Head Start

  • Head Start funded pre-school for 652,422 children
  • 111,203 children total received a behavioral health treatment plan

Early Head Start

  • Early Head Start saw a total of 163,126 children enrolled in the program

(Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the fiscal year 2018.)

A fact sheet for all U.S. states and territories can be seen here.

How to Enroll

To enroll in Head Start or Early Head Start, simply contact your local Head Start office.
You can find a Head Start program near you by visiting the Head Start Center Locator.


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