Early Head Start
Early Head Start (EHS) promotes healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, enhances the development of very young children, and promotes healthy family functioning. EHS incorporates current research and best practice in providing services to low-income families with young children. EHS is an intensive, comprehensive, flexible, culturally sensitive program that is designed to reinforce and respond to the unique strengths and needs of each individual child and family. The program services include:
- Quality early education both in and out of the home
- Parenting education
- Comprehensive health and mental health services, including services to women before, during and after pregnancy
- Nutrition education
- Family support services
Early Head Start offers child development services for children and families through center-based, home-based, and enrichment program options. Children and families enrolled in center-based programs receive comprehensive child development services in a center-based setting, supplemented with home visits by the child's teacher and other EHS staff. In home-based settings, children and their families are supported through weekly home visits and bi-monthly group socialization experiences.
The community and family assessments undertaken by EHS programs help staff determine which program option(s) best meet the needs of families in their local communities. Often one program option does not meet the developmental needs of a child over a three year period, or support the family's changing needs and circumstances. As a result, EHS programs often offer more than one program option so that children can receive the services they need as their family needs change. EHS programs are required to involve parents and community representatives in all areas of the program including policy, program design, curriculum and management decisions.