Head Start services for children promote school readiness, and include early education, health, nutrition, mental health, and services for children with special needs.
Early education services
Head Start provides an educational program comprised of learning experiences to foster children’s intellectual, physical, social, and emotional growth. Head Start partners with parents around the education of their children, and incorporating research-based curriculum, ongoing child outcomes assessment, and periodic family reports regarding children’s progress. Head Start supports children’s social and emotional development as the foundation for healthy relationships and school readiness. Children in Head Start socialize with others, solve problems, and work on basic language and literacy skills. Children learn through play-based activities in safe and nurturing indoor and outdoor environments, and have experiences which help them become self-confident and excited about learning.
Health and nutrition services
Head Start works with families to support children for optimal health, growth and development. For pregnant women enrolled in Early Head Start, the program helps to assure that women have prenatal services and education, as well as postpartum care. For children, during the first 45 days of enrollment, Head Start conducts a variety of child screenings including height, weight, vision, hearing, developmental and behavioral screenings. For any concerns identified, Head Start supports parents around referrals and follow-up with appropriate health professionals.
Head Start works with families to assure that children have an ongoing and regular source of medical care (doctor) and oral health care (dentist). Head Start supports families in assuring that children stay up-to-date on their schedule of well child care, including regular physical exams, dental exams and immunizations, and that children who need follow-up treatment receive timely follow-up treatment for any acute health concerns or issues.
Head Start promotes healthy nutrition for children and families. Head Start conducts a nutrition assessment for every child, provides well-balanced, nutritious meals and snacks for children at Head Start and Early Head Start classroom options, and incorporates nutrition education into curriculum and services for children and families.
Head Start works with mental health professionals and agencies in local communities. Head Start Mental Health Consultants conduct classroom and group socialization observations to enhance children’s learning environments, provide staff and parent workshops around child mental health, and are available for individual meetings with families to offer help in addressing parents’ concerns and providing appropriate referrals if needed.
Services for children with special needs and their families
Head Start works in cooperation with community professionals, school districts, and special education providers, to provide services and support to children with special needs, and a minimum of 10% of Head Start program enrollment is comprised of children with special needs. For children who are not currently enrolled in special education services, Head Start conducts a child development screening during the first forty-five (45) days following enrollment. Parents and Head Start staff work together to determine whether a referral for a more in-depth evaluation is warranted. For children determined eligible for special education services, Head Start supports parents in the special education process around development and implementation of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for infants and toddlers, or the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for children ages three to five. For all children, Head Start provides individualized programming and services responsive to each child’s development and unique needs.