Head Start

Head Start

Provides low-income families with high quality early childhood development services

Head Start is a federally-funded child development program designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. Head Start’s approach is that the parent is the child’s primary educator and that the entire family, as well as the community, must be involved in guiding and nurturing the child. Over the past four decades, Head Start has touched the lives of more than 250,000 low-income preschool children and families at more than 140 locations in San Diego County.


Head Start was launched in 1965 as an eight-week summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity. A blueprint for Project Head Start came from a panel of child development experts who were asked to develop a program to help communities overcome the challenges that economically disadvantaged preschool children and their families face. In 1965 Head Start was transferred to the Office of Child Development in the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare and is now a program within the Administration on Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, and is administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS).

Today, Head Start programs are operated by over 1,500 community-based organizations in all 50 states and US territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Head Start program is available to:

  • Income-eligible children birth to five years of age
  • Foster children, homeless families and families receiving TANF, SSI, or SNAP (CalFresh) are considered categorically-eligible for Head Start
  • Children with disabilities (on an individualized basis). Children with disabilities are fully-included into the program. Services for children with disabilities and their families are provided in coordination with local early intervention and education agencies, community organization, and school districts. Head Start staff work closely with families to advocate in securing necessary services and resources for their children.

Proof of citizenship is not a requirement for enrollment in Head Start.

Began in 1994, Early Head Start focuses on children six weeks to three years of age, as well as pregnant and post-partum, low-income women. Comprehensive services include parenting classes, individualized plans for children and transition services for children moving onto preschool. NHA Early Head Start program options include:

  • Services to Pregnant Women – comprehensive services including weekly prenatal classes for pregnant women and their families as well as individualized postpartum home visits
  • Home–Base: comprehensive services for children from birth to 3 years of age including weekly family home visits and two monthly group socializations for families
  • Center-Base: comprehensive services for children 18 months to 3 years of age in a center based setting, full day and five days per week. The full day option is available to families that meet requirement for employment and/or enrollment in a vocational/training program

Children enrolled in the Early Head Start program receive the same compliment of comprehensive services as Head Start. Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs are governed by the same funding requirements.

NHA Head Start preschool programs provide comprehensive services to children ages 3 – 5 years of age. The preschool curriculum is research-based, developmentally appropriate and is designed to develop Kindergarten readiness skills. Additional services include:

  • Child health, mental health, nutrition and family social services
  • Training and workshops for parents

Head Start service options are designed to meet the needs of families, and are:

  • Home-Base: comprehensive services for children from 3 to 5 years of age that includes individualized weekly home visits and two monthly group socializations for families
  • Center -Base: comprehensive services for children ages 3 to 5 years of age. Hours are either full day (6 or more hours) or part day (3.5 hours). The full day option is available to families that meet requirements for employment and/or enrollment in a vocational/training program

Each child receives an individualized educational program based on his/her strengths and needs. Children are provided with the opportunity to participate in math, science, art, language, drama and cultural activities in large and small groups. Children leave Head Start prepared for Kindergarten, excited about learning, confident in their abilities and ready to succeed. Children are assessed three times a year to make sure they are “Kinder-ready” when they leave the program. The Head Start curriculum is specifically designed to develop the child’s:

  • Language and literacy skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Math and science exploration
  • Socialization and interaction skill

NHA implements its governance, management systems and program services in a manner to support higher school readiness outcomes in children. NHA’s school readiness goals serve as a basis for its organized systems approach.

The NHA School Readiness Goals are clearly articulated and aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, State of California Learning Foundations, Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) 2010 measures and the Creative Curriculum.

Head Start provides children with:

  • One-third of their daily nutritional requirements. All meals are served family style.
  • Screenings that assess cognitive development, speech/language development, hearing, vision social-emotional development, as well as a nutritional assessment
  • Each family is assured linkage to an ongoing preventative health-care system
  • Experiences that promote positive mental health, improved self-esteem, stress management and personal growth
  • Daily tooth brushing and collaboration with dentists to provide oral exams and screenings

No Shots, No School” All children need to be fully immunized to participate in Head Start. The program provides referral assistance for immunization.

Head Start partners with parents to support the child’s development as well as empower the parents to become healthy, well-adjusted productive adults. Head Start encourages parents to:

  • Be their child’s first teacher
  • Participate in their child’s educational program
  • Get involved with NHA opportunities to join policy-making assemblies to build skills in decision-making, group participation and leadership
  • Develop and enhance life skills necessary for family self-sufficiency

NHA Head Start prides itself on the fact that Head Start children do leave the program “Kinder-ready!” This is verified in the many testimonials heard from parents and from Kindergarten teachers and shown in the program’s DRDP Trend Data.

One of the many variables that support the success of NHA’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs are the teachers. A national educational standard for all Head Start teachers has been set mandating that at least 50% of the program teachers have a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, or a related degree. Educational degrees for NHA teachers exceed this mandate. At a minimum, all Head Start teachers are required to have an appropriate Child Development Teacher Permit issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Head Start reaches out to families who could benefit from its services by:

  • Visiting elementary schools
  • Recruiting at community fairs and neighborhoods events
  • Interfacing with community social-service and health agencies in our service area

Visit our Partner Portal and download Head Start flyers here.

Neighborhood House Association is currently taking applications for families interested in either Head Start or Early Head Start services. Families interested in applying can call 1-888-873-5145  or complete our Head Start Pre-Application.

Join our network!
NHA partners with a strong network of early care and education providers to ensure children and families have access to the critical services Early Head Start and Head Start have to offer.

To learn more about becoming an NHA Head Start ECE Program Partner, complete the interest form here.


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