Head Start and Early Head Start are federal programs authorized by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007.1 Head Start and Early Head Start provide comprehensive child development, health, and social service programs for low-income families.2 Head Start Programs are based in child care centers and family child care homes.3 Another option is home-based service in which a staff member visits a child’s home once a week.4 The goal of Head Start and Early Head Start is to provide activities and programs that develop the social, cognitive, and emotional skills of children, while supporting their families’ well-being and development. 5 Since its establishment, Head Start has provided its services to low-income infants, children, and pregnant women in the U.S at no charge.6 Head Start is for children aged three to five.7 While Early Head Start is focused on providing services to families with infants and toddlers aged birth to three years.8 Expectant mothers are also able to participate in Early Head Start.9  

The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) initiative provides a layering of funding for comprehensive and continuous services to low-income infants, toddlers, and their families.10  Minnesota has six sites that were provided funding for this initiative:  Anoka County Community Action Program, Inc. (serving Coon Rapids), Mahube-Otaw Community Action Partnership, Inc. (serving Detroit Lakes), Tri-County Community Action, Inc. (serving Little Falls), Parents in Community Action, Inc. (serving Minneapolis), Bois Forte Tribal Government (serving Nett Lake), Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc. (serving Rochester), and Lower Sioux Indian Community.11  

Head Start Programs are administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS), within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).12 Federal Head Start law requires the administering agency develop Head Start Program performance standards for Head Start Program services.13 In accordance with federal law, ACF has developed Head Start Program performance regulations.14  Federal law requires states to create State Advisory Councils.  In Minnesota, the State Advisory Council for Early Childhood Education and Care is the established policy council required by federal regulations. These State Advisory Councils are charged with coordinating the larger early care and education setting, and do not have authority over the Head Start or Early Head Start programming at the local level. At the local level, Head Start and Early State Grantees must create a Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC). “The HSAC is an advisory group usually composed of local health providers who represent a wide variety of local social services agencies. They may include pediatricians, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, nutritionists, and mental health providers. Head Start staff and parents also serve on the HSAC. Effective partnerships are key to the success of this approach. HSACs help programs to make decisions about health services and strengthen the communities where Head Start families live.15

Any local, public, or private non-profit agency (including community-based faith organizations, faith-based organizations, and for-profit agencies) interested in providing Head Start Program services can apply to available Head Start grants directly on the OHS’s funding website.16 If an organization is chosen to receive a Head Start grant, it is designated a Head Start “agency.”17 The Head Start grant is then given directly to the organization through the HHS regional office.18 Agencies have the option to administer Head Start programs themselves, contract program services to other organizations or providers, or sponsor Head Start Program projects.19

 

Head Start Program Eligibility

Children are eligible for Head Start Programs if:20

  1. The family’s income is equal to or below the poverty line; or
  2. The family is eligible for or, in the absence of child care, would be potentially eligible for public assistance; including temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) child-only payments; or
  3. The child is homeless; or
  4. The child is in foster care.

Additionally, children in Early Head Start must be an infant or toddler younger than three years old, and pregnant women may be eligible for services.21 Children in Head Start Programs must be at least three years.22

An agency or contracted provider may enroll an additional 35% of participants whose families do not meet enrollment eligibility and whose family incomes are below 130% of the poverty line if it establishes and implements outreach to ensure it is meeting the needs of eligible families and enrolls eligible families first.23

 

Head Start Program Structure

An organization that is designated as a Head Start agency must provide Head Start services through a child care center,  a family child care home, home visiting, and/or an approved locally-designated variation.24 Regardless of the child care setting that is chosen, the program must deliver the full range of Head Start Program services which include: education and child development, health, family and community engagement, services for children with disabilities, and transition services.25

Head Start agencies must establish and maintain a formal structure for program governance that includes a governing body, a policy council at the agency level and policy committee at the delegate level, and a parent committee.26 Governing bodies have a legal and fiscal responsibility to administer and oversee the agency's Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Policy councils are responsible for the direction of the agency's Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Parents of children enrolled in the program make up the policy council and have responsibilities to oversee the design, implementation and monitoring of the federal Head Start program. 

Child Care Centers

Child care centers can either be designated as a Head Start agency or can partner with a designated agency to deliver program services.27 Child care centers primarily offer Head Start Program services in a classroom setting.28 Child care centers administering Head Start Programs that operate for less than 45 days in a calendar year are exempt from licensure.29 However, child care centers must comply with State, Tribal, or local licensing requirements, even if it is exempt by the licensing entity.30 Child care centers must also comply with staff-to-child ratios, indoor and outdoor space, and service duration requirements.31

Family Child Care Homes

Family child care homes must partner with a designated Head Start agency to deliver Head Start or Early Head Start program services on behalf of the agency.32 The agency must enter into a legally binding agreement with one or more family child care provider(s) that states the roles, rights, and responsibilities of each party, or that the program is the employer of the child care provider.33 Additionally, the agency must ensure family child care homes that can accommodate children and families with disabilities are available.34

Family child care homes must be licensed by the State, Tribal, or local entity to provide Head Start Program services.35 Family child care homes must also comply with staff-to-child ratios,36 and service durations.37 Lastly, the agency must provide a child development specialist to support family child care providers and ensure quality services are being provided.38

Home Visiting

Agencies have the option to provide home visiting services through their organization or through a contracted provider to provide Head Start Program services.39 The home visiting option delivers Head Start program services primarily in the child’s home and through group socialization opportunities.40 A Head Start home visitor must visit the family’s home once per week for at least an hour and a half, and provide a minimum of 32 visits per year.41 Early Head Start home visitors must visit the family’s home once per week for at least an hour and a half, and provide a minimum of 46 visits per year.42 Home visiting Head Start providers must also meet minimum requirements for home visits and group social activities.43 Additionally, each home visitor must maintain a caseload of 10-12 families they administer Head Start Program service to.44

Locally-designated Program Variations

If there are unique needs in a community that do not fit the above program models, an agency or contracted provider can request to operate a locally-designated program option.45 This can include a combination of the above program options.46 In order to provide Head Start Program services through the variation option, the program must complete a waiver request and be approved by HHS.47

 

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women have the opportunity to participate in the Early Head Start Program directly through an agency or contracted provider.48 To participate in Early Head Start, pregnant women must meet the same eligibility requirements as children.49 Under the Head Start Program Performance Standards, an agency or contracted provider must facilitate the ability for enrolled pregnant women to access comprehensive services which includes nutritional counseling and food assistance.50 Programs must also have prenatal and postpartum information, education, and services that address the importance of nutrition and benefits of breastfeeding.51

 

Head Start Nutritional Service Requirements

Head Start agencies are required to provide health program services to receive a Head Start grant.52 One component of the health program services is nutrition.53 Providers must deliver high quality nutritional services that are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate, and support each child’s growth and school readiness.54 Specifically a program must:55

  • Ensure each child in a program operating less than six hours per day receive meals and snacks that provide one third to one half of the child’s daily nutritional needs;
  • Ensure each child in a program operating more than six hours per day receive meals and snacks that that provide one half to two thirds of the child’s daily nutritional needs;
  • Serve three to five year olds meals and snacks that conform to USDA’s requirements that are high in nutrients, low in fat, sugar, and salt;
  • Feed infants and toddlers according to their individual development readiness and feeding skills as recommended and ensure infants and toddlers are fed on demand to the extent possible;
  • Ensure bottle fed-infants are never laid down to sleep with a bottle;
  • Serve all children in morning center-based programs who have not received breakfast upon arrival a nourishing breakfast;
  • Provide appropriate healthy snacks and meals to each child during group socialization activities in the home-based option;
  • Promote breastfeeding, including providing facilities to properly store and handle breastmilk and make accommodation for mothers who wish to breastfeed during program hours; and
  • Make safe drinking water available to children during the program day.

An agency must use funds from USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services child nutrition programs as the primary source of payment for meal services. Head Start and Early Head Start funds can be used to cover allowable food costs not covered by the USDA.56

 

Head Start and Early Head Start Funding Overview

Federal Funding Stream

Head Start and Early Head Start programs receive funding through the Consolidation Appropriations Act of 2016.57 In 2016, under the Consolidation Appropriations Act, $9.17 billion was appropriated to Head Start programs. An additional $135 million was allocated to Early Head Start programs.58

As stated above, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal agency that is responsible for overseeing and administering Head Start program funds.59 Each fiscal year, the Secretary of HHS determines the amount to be appropriated to the State.60 The amount appropriated is determined by the amount Head Start agencies received in the prior year through base grants.61 The Secretary also determines how many new Head Start Programs to fund.62 Of the amount appropriated to Head Start programs, at least 2.5 percent but not more than three percent must be reserved to fund training and technical assistance, 20 percent of which must be used for Early Head Start programs.63

HHS operates ten regional offices throughout the United States. The HHS regional office that serves Minnesota is Region five which also serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.64 Once a program is designated a Head Start agency, a Head Start grant is made directly to the agency through the OHS regional office.65 Federal assistance to an agency cannot exceed 80% of the approved total program costs.66 Head Start grants also require agencies to contribute 20% towards the total program costs as a non-federal match.67 OHS may provide financial assistance to the agency for up to five years for the planning, administration, and evaluation of Head Start Programs.68

Additionally, OHS can award collaboration grants and start up grants. A collaboration grant can be awarded to a State’s collaboration office to facilitate collaboration among Head Start agencies within the State.69 A start up grant is a one-time grant to the State to develop or enhance childhood education and care.70 The Minnesota State Collaboration Office, within the Minnesota Department of Education is the responsible office for facilitating collaboration between Head Start agencies in Minnesota.71

Minnesota Funding Stream

The Minnesota Governor designated the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) as the state agency responsible for administering state Head Start Program funds. The Minnesota Legislature provides supplementary state funds for Head Start Programs in the biennial budget.72 In addition to federal Head Start grants, the Minnesota Governor provides supplementary state funds for Head Start Programs in the biennial budget.73 State funds must be used to expand services and serve additional children. Minnesota supplementary funds may be used to fund innovative initiatives as described in state statute.74

The Minnesota Legislature has passed statutes requiring MDE to appropriate State supplemental funds to federally designated Head Start agencies to expand services and serve more children.75 The statute requires eligible Head Start agencies to submit a plan to MDE in order to receive supplementary state Head Start funding.76 MDE makes these supplemental payments to Head Start programs based on a programs federal funding and the number of children reported to be enrolled in the program.77

MDE allocates state funds at a per child rate equal to its federally funded base level. MDE must notify each program of its initial allocation and how the money must be used. The program must also present a plan to MDE on how the program will utilize the funds.78 The Minnesota State Collaboration Office, within the Minnesota Department of Education is the responsible office for facilitating collaboration between Head Start agencies in Minnesota.79 State collaboration grants are given directly to the Minnesota State Collaboration Office from HHS.80

Provider and Family Allocations

According to the federal process, any organization that wants to receive Head Start funding must submit an application to OHS.81 To apply, the organization must propose a service area where the Head Start programs would be administered and complete a community needs assessment.82 Once an organization is chosen to receive a federal Head Start program grant, they are referred to as a Head Start “agency.”83

Practically speaking, applications are only accepted with new funds are available or there is an open competition for existing grants.  New funding opportunities are very rare.   Open competitions are more common, but require that a service area is available in a given state and locality.  In Minnesota, for example, the service areas are currently served by various agencies.84 

An agency can enter into an agreement with another entity to administer Head Start Services, which is referred to as a delegate agency.85 The agency must support, oversee, and ensure the delegate agency is providing high-quality services to children and families and meeting all applicable Head Start requirements.86 Once a program is designated a Head Start agency, a Head Start grant is made directly to the agency, or the delegate agency, through the HHS regional office.87 The Head Start agency or delegate agency may then partner with a child care center or family child care home to deliver program services.88

An agency must use funds from USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services child nutrition programs as the primary source of payment for meal services. Head Start and Early Head Start funds can be used to cover allowable food costs not covered by the USDA.89 Head Start agencies in Minnesota that need State supplementary funds for their program must submit a plan to MDE to be considered for additional funding.90

 

Tribes

MDE collaborates with Tribal partners to bring high-quality Head Start services to Tribal communities.91 Each year, HHS must provide funds for Indian Head Start Programs that is equal to the amount provided for base grants for the prior year.92 HHS must also provide an amount for a collaboration grant for the Indian Head Start Programs.93 Tribal child care centers interested in providing Head Start Program services can apply for available Head Start grants through HHS.94 If an organization is chosen, it is designated an Indian Head Start “agency,” and the Head Start grant is made directly to the agency through the HHS regional office.95 To apply the program must propose a service area where the Head Start Programs would be administered and complete a community needs assessment.96

 

The Public Health Law Center would like to thank Gayle Kelly, Executive Director of the Minnesota Head Start Association, Inc. for her important input and review of the information relating to the Head Start Program.

 

Endnotes


1 42 U.S.C. § 9831 (2007).

2 42 U.S.C. § 9831 (2007).

3 About Us, Head Start (Feb. 21, 2017), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/about.

4 About Us, Head Start (Feb. 21, 2017), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/about.

5 What you Should Know About Head Start, Head Start (Nov. 13, 2014), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/directories/apply/WhatYouShouldK.htm.

6 Head Start/Early Head Start, Cmty. Action P’ship of Washington and Ramsey Ctys., http://www.caprw.org/community-action-services/head-start/ (last visited June 7, 2017).

7 What you Should Know About Head Start, Head Start (Nov. 13, 2014), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/directories/apply/WhatYouShouldK.htm.

8 What you Should Know About Head Start, Head Start (Nov. 13, 2014), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/directories/apply/WhatYouShouldK.htm.

9 What you Should Know About Head Start, Head Start (Nov. 13, 2014), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/directories/apply/WhatYouShouldK.htm.

10 https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/ehs-cc-partnerships

11 https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/ehs-cc-partnerships/grant-awardees

12 About the Office of Head Start, ECLKC (Feb. 21, 2017), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/about#office.

13 42 U.S.C. § 9836a(a) (2007).

14 45 C.F.R. §§ 1301-1305 (2016). State Advisory Councils, Office of Head Start (February 12, 2018) https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/state-advisory-councils.

15 Early Childhood State Advisory Councils Final Report,” May 2015, Administration for Children and Families, Available at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/head-start-collaboration-offices-national-priorities.

16 Funding Opportunities, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., https://ami.grantsolutions.gov/office/ohs (last visited June 12, 2017).

17 Review of State Funding for Head Start, Minn. House of Reps. 2 (Dec. 1999), http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/headstart.pdf.

18 Review of State Funding for Head Start, Minn. House of Reps. 2 (Dec. 1999), http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/headstart.pdf.

19 42 U.S.C. § 9837(a) (2016).

20 45 C.F.R. § 1302.12(c)(1) (2016).

21 45 C.F.R. § 1302.12(b)(1) (2016).

22 45 C.F.R. § 1302.12(b)(2) (2016).

23 45 C.F.R. § 1302.12(d) (2016).

24 45 C.F.R. § 1302.20(a) (2016).

25 45 C.F.R. §§ 1302.30-1302.70 (2016).

26 45 C.F.R. § 1301.1 (2016).

27 42 U.S.C. § 9836(a) (2016).

28 45 C.F.R. § 1302.21(a) (2016).

29 Minn. Stat. § 245A.03, subdiv. 2(a)(13) (2016).

30 45 C.F.R. § 1302.21(d)(1) (2016).

31 45 C.F.R. §§ 1302.21(b-d) (2016).

32 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(a)(1) (2016).

33 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(a)(1) (2016).

34 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(a)(2) (2016).

35 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(d) (2016).

36 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(b)(1) (2016).

37 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(c) (2016).

38 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(e) (2016).

39 42 U.S.C. § 9836(a) (2016).

40 45 C.F.R. § 1302.22(a) (2016).

41 45 C.F.R. § 1302.22(a) (2016).

42 45 C.F.R. § 1302.22(c)(1)(i) (2016).

43 45 C.F.R. § 1302.22(c) (2016).

44 45 C.F.R. § 1302.22(b) (2016).

45 45 C.F.R. § 1302.24(a) (2016).

46 45 C.F.R. § 1302.24(a) (2016).

47 45 C.F.R. § 1302.24(a)-(b) (2016).

48 45 C.F.R. § 1302.80 (2016).

49 45 C.F.R. § 1302.12(c)(1) (2016).

50 45 C.F.R. § 1302.80(c) (2016).

51 45 C.F.R. § 1302.81(a) (2016).

52 45 C.F.R. § 1302.40 (2016).

53 45 C.F.R. § 1302.40 (2016).

54 45 C.F.R. § 1302.40(a) (2016).

55 45 C.F.R. § 1302.44(a)(2) (2016).

56 45 C.F.R § 1302.44(b) (2016).

57 Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-113, 129 Stat. 2242 (2015).

58 Fiscal Year 2016 Federal Child Care and Related Appropriations, U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs. (Jan 4, 2016), https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/fiscal-year-2016-federal-child-care-and-related-appropriations.

59 42 U.S.C. § 9835 (2007).

60 42 U.S.C. § 9835(b) (2007).

61 42 U.S.C. § 9835(2)(A) (2007).

62 42 U.S.C. § 9835(C)(ii) (2007).

63 42 U.S.C. § 9835(C)(i) (2007).

64 Region 5, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs. (2017), https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/iea/regional-offices/region-5/index.html.

65 Review of State Funding for Head Start, Minn. House of Reps. 2 (Dec. 1999), http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/headstart.pdf.

66 45 C.F.R. § 1303.4 (2016).

67 45 C.F.R. § 1303.4 (2016).

68 42 U.S.C. § 9833 (2007).

69 42 U.S.C. § 9837b(2)(A) (2007).

70 42 U.S.C. § 9837b(2)(A) (2007).

71 Head Start, Minn. Dep’t of Educ., http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/fam/elsprog/start/ (last visited June 26, 2017).

72 Minn. Stat. § 119A.50 (2016).

73 See Operating Budget, Minn. Mgmt. & Budget, https://mn.gov/mmb/budget/currentbud/ (last visited June 12, 2017).

74 See Minn. Stat. § 119A.52(c) (2016).

75 Minn. Stat. § 119A.52(a) (2016).

76 Minn. Stat. § 119A.535 (2016).

77 Minn. Stat. § 119A.52(b) (2016).

78 Minn. Stat. § 119A.52(a) (2016).

79 Head Start, Minn. Dep’t of Educ., http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/fam/elsprog/start/ (last visited June 26, 2017).

80 42 U.S.C. § 9837b(2)(A) (2007).

81 Grants and Oversight, Head Start (Mar. 7, 2017), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/grants/grant-toolkit/funding.html.

82 45 C.F.R. § 1302.11(a-b) (2016).

83 45 C.F.R. § 1305.2 (2016).

84 http://www.mnheadstart.org/grantees.html

85 45 C.F.R. § 1303.31 (2016).

86 45 C.F.R. § 1303.30 (2016).

87 Review of State Funding for Head Start, Minn. House of Reps. 2 (Dec. 1999), http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/headstart.pdf.

88 42 U.S.C. § 9836(a) (2016); 45 C.F.R. § 1302.23(a)(1) (2016).

89 45 C.F.R § 1302.44(b) (2016).

90 Minn. Stat. § 119A.535 (2014).

91 Collaboration & Partnerships, ECLKC, https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/states (last visited June 14, 2017).

92 42 U.S.C. § 9835(B)(ii) (2007).

93 42 U.S.C. § 9835(B)(vi) (2007).

94 Funding Opportunities, U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., https://ami.grantsolutions.gov/office/ohs (last visited June 12, 2017).

95 45 C.F.R. § 1305.2 (2016).

96 45 C.F.R. § 1302.11(a-b) (2016).