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What Is An Early Head Start (EHS) Program?

Early Head Start program is a federally funded program that helps preschool-aged children from low-income families get a head start on their education. To help families with children younger than three, the federal government supports the Early Head Start program. The original Head Start program was enacted in 1965, but Early Head Start was not created until the Head Start Act was reauthorized in 1994. The National Advisory Committee drew up the Early Head Start plan to incorporate the best prenatal to age three years services.

Early Head Start (EHS) Program

Services provided by the Early Head Start program is centered on the family and aims at helping low-income families with young children. With the help of these initiatives, EHS will better equip parents to raise healthy, happy children while also gaining the independence they need to break free from dependence on government programs. The Early Head Start program, like Head Start in general, encourages both parents—mothers and fathers—to take on the primary duty of caring for and educating their children. Families are given the tools they need to become economically independent and self-sufficient in various areas with the help of numerous programs. The Early Head Start program also engages the community to provide the essential infrastructure and support to ensure that children and their families have access to a full range of services and support systems.

EHS Nursery School and Pre-School

Two generations can benefit from the Early Head Start program because 90% of participants have low or no incomes. Support for expectant mothers begins before the baby is born to improve the child's physical and mental health. In 2005, approximately 700 localities in the United States provided programs to 63,000 low-income children ages 0-3. The program will serve about 3% of children who are potentially eligible for services. The Head Start Performance Standards provide the framework for the Early Head Start program. Research has shown that programs focusing on infants and toddlers in a group setting are typically high quality.

On average, 75 kids participate in each Early Head Start program. The majority of Head Start programs have partnerships with another three to five programs that serve significantly more kids. The programs can be found in both urban and rural locations, with home visits used more frequently in rural areas and daycare-based services used more frequently in urban areas. In 2004, just under a third of Early Head Start students were African American, just under a third were Hispanic, and just under a quarter were white; other minorities made up lesser percentages. Native American reservations and immigrant communities often host the Early Head Start program in rural areas.

EHS Program Categories

The Early Head Start program may occur in a traditional classroom setting, in the child's home, or a combination of the two. There follows a brief description of each category:

  • Daycare-Based Programs: Located in a central city, daycare-based programs can be either half-day or full-day options for children, with at least two home visits each year for their parents.
  • Home-Based Programs: Visits to the home once a week and group outings with multiple children.
  • Mixture Programs: Both daycare and home-based services are provided to children, with home visits provided to the kids and their parents throughout at least part of the first year of life.

Home Visiting Programs

It is envisaged that both children and their parents will receive from the benefits rendered in the comfort of their own homes through home visiting programs, which place a strong emphasis on child development. Home visitors often discuss and plan children's development objectives with parents, who may leave age-appropriate toys and resources for the kid to utilize in the week following their visit.

Early Head Start and ECI

Infants and toddlers who qualify for Early Head Start programs are supported by Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) programs. If your child is eligible for ECI, a group of people will help you plan how best to meet your family's needs (IFSP). Your baby's growth and development goals, as well as the services your family will receive, will be outlined in this plan. If your child does not meet the requirements for Early Head Start, you may find out what other services they may be eligible for by contacting the ECI program in your area.

Who is Eligible for Services?

The programs of both Head Start and Early Head Start are to:

  • Disabled kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Disabled youngsters make up about 10% of the program's participants.

  • Kids whose families fall below the federal poverty line, as determined by the Health and Human Services Department in the United States. Kids living on the streets.

  • Families who rely on programs like TANF and SSI who often struggle to provide a stable environment for their children (SSI).

  • Foster children, regardless of their foster family's financial situation.

  • Women expecting children whose household income is below the federal poverty level.

Problems Faced By EHS

Several obstacles stand in the way of programs enabling seamless service delivery. It is not enough to make the services available; follow-up may be needed to ensure appointments are met or other forms of assistance (such as transportation). If there aren't enough specialists in the area, offering certain services could be difficult. In addition, programs must guarantee that their community childcare providers are up to line with Early Head Start's quality criteria. Many programs are conducted in languages other than English, and Spanish also presents a barrier to providing services in the dialects that families use. Furthermore, certain immigrant-serving programs face hurdles due to the existing immigration policies. Trust issues may discourage families from accessing services, and these programs must address this barrier.

After a child reaches the age of two and a half, programs start preparations for their exit from EHS. Transition planning promotes service integration by locating suitable placements, creating channels of contact, sharing records, and conveying the child's and family's progress and needs to the new provider. There should be a smooth transition from one program to another; ideally, families should be able to keep receiving the services they currently receive. It cannot be easy to enroll in Head Start since once they become eligible, they must once again meet the financial requirements.

Are Early Head Start Programs Effective?

Results for the families and kids in EHS have been promising. Service integration appears to be related to the program's beneficial outcomes in that favorable impacts were identified for both fully implemented programs, which included building collaborations to integrate services, as well as programs that offered both daycare as well as home-based facilities, enabling families access to whatever was more suited for their needs. Early Head Start's goal is to help babies and toddlers become successful students and citizens by improving their health and well-being from birth onward, and research suggests that these programs work.