Head Start & Early Head Start

The Maricopa County Early Education Division promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through its Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Head Start services are designed to support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. In addition to education services, Head Start provides children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services. Head Start services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

Comprehensive services are delivered in a learning environment that is individualized to support children's growth and development. A minimum of 10 percent of the program's total enrollment must be children with disabilities.

Head Start comprehensive services include:  

  • Education 
  • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior 
  • Health and safety 
  • Social and emotional health 
  • Nutrition 
  • Family goal-setting 
  • Social services 
  • Transition services 
  • Services for children with disabilities

Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child's first and most important teachers. Programs build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community.

Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another Pre-K program. Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services.

Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models depending on the needs of the family. Programs may be based in centers, schools, or child care centers. Early Head Start services are provided for at least six hours per day, year-round. Head Start preschool services may be half-day (three and a half hours) or full-day (six hours) either part year or year-round.

Early Head Start is home-based services, in which a Family Educator visits children once a week in their own home and works with the parent as the child's primary teacher. Children and families who receive home-based services meet twice monthly with other enrolled families for a group learning experience facilitated by Head Start staff.

Another program option is Early Head Start Childcare Partnerships. These community-based child care organizations are one of the most promising practices emerging in the early childhood field and offer:

  •  High-quality care for all low-income infants and toddlers in participating child care programs; 
  •  Comprehensive services for children and families; 
  •  Enhanced quality of services and professional development; and 
  •  Coordinated service delivery built into the community's infrastructure.