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Head Start Pre-K Programs

Guide

1/20/2022 | Mikhal Weiner

As parents of young kids, we want what’s best for our little ones. We want them to feel as though the stars they dream of aren’t out of reach, whether they love science or sports or anything else. The problem is, of course, that we can’t always do everything we want for them. Getting our kids on the right track to be learners and innovators costs money, and we all know that dollars don’t grow on trees. 

Fortunately, there are programs out there with the specific aim of uplifting kids and keeping them excited about learning, and at very low—and sometimes no—cost to parents or guardians. According to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Head Start programs “support children's growth in a positive learning environment.” Depending on the specifics of your situation, educators might even come to your home. Sounds pretty great, right? 

Let’s take a look at the details of the Head Start Pre-K programs and how you can lean on them to empower the kids in your life.

Who is eligible for Head Start Pre-K programs?

As you may have imagined, not all Americans are eligible for the educational boost that comes with a Head Start program. In fact, these programs are intended to serve families who are struggling financially. In order to apply for a Head Start program, families must provide proof of income and show that they are either at or below the Poverty Line, as described by the federal government. That said, this is the only requirement. The ACF states that “all programs welcome children with disabilities and children who are dual language learners.” Early Head Start programs serve children as young as newborns (and even pregnant women!) while regular Head Start provides learning opportunities for 3-4 year-old kids. 

What topics do Head-Start Pre-K Programs teach?

Head First programs focus on the key topics that will give your kids a leg up once they’re in a classroom setting: Math, literacy, language development, and social skills. That’s not to say that your preschooler will be doing advanced algebra every afternoon—not at all! The Head Start educators find ways of making these key concepts fun for participants. Plus, they make a point of bringing the unique family culture of each child into the room, whether that’s with food, music, or holiday celebrations.

Are there Head Start Pre-K Programs that are Culturally Specific?

Absolutely. Beyond providing services that honor the cultural traditions of families, whatever heritage they may hail from, there are also more specific Head Start programs. One of these, AIAN Head Start, has been designed to serve the American Indian and Alaskan Native populations. The other, MSHS Head Start, has been designed with the lifestyles and routines of migrants and seasonal workers in mind. To apply for either of these programs, simply fill out the relevant form, which is clearly marked on the application page of the ACF website. 

Can I apply for Head Start if I’m a foster parent or grandparent?

Yes! Head Start recognizes that families come in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes children are being raised by their biological parents, sure, but plenty of times they’re also not. Maybe they’re adopted, or in the foster care system, or being raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles. All of these family units are valid; all of these children are worthy of getting the education they deserve to thrive. Simply mark your relationship to the child or children you’re applying for in the form and Head Start will take care of the rest. 

All kids deserve to have a place where they can learn and flourish, a place that will have them glowing on their very first day of school. Thankfully, there are tens of thousands of Head Start locations scattered across the United States, all of which are there to help your children get excited about a life of learning.

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