Head Start

Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit

Early Head Start/ Head Start

Federal Funding Streams: Requirements and Detailed Information
Federal Agency: Administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS), Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Federal Early Head Start/Head Start Funding for VA:  $133.5 million in FY 2017
What Are the Main Requirements?
How do Federal Funds Flow?
These programs are designed to promote positive early childhood development and school readiness for children from low-income families, who are in foster care, have disabilities, are experiencing homelessness, or are receiving public assistance in partnership with their families (using a two-generation model of child and family supports).


Early Head Start may begin as early as prenatally (through home
visits and other family engagement), and continue to age three;
Head Start serves 3- to 5-year-old children.
Programs must serve the most vulnerable children in their geographic area based on a needs assessment.
Children are eligible if they live in a family with income under 100% of the FPL, or are in the foster care system, or are homeless. Early Head Start/Head Start grantees who demonstrate all children at 100%of the FPL are being served may receive approval to serve up to 35% of their enrolled children from families with incomes up to 130% of the FPL.
At least 10% of program enrollment must include children with disabilities.
Once determined eligible, the child may be served until the age cut-off for EHS and Head Start, regardless of family income or work status.


Cost to Family:
Families may not be charged for services.


Grantees may apply to offer one or more program options: center-based, home-based (home visit), family child care, or an approved locally-designed variation.
Center-based services may be provided in a private family child care or child care setting, provided that all Head Start/Early Head Start federal performance standards are met.


Quality Standards:
Specific comprehensive program performance standards including education, health, nutrition, family partnerships, and governance must be met by grantees in order to be in good standing.
Class size and staff to child ratios are set by the federal regulations.
Federal Head Start/Early Head Start funding is awarded directly to local grantees for 5 year periods.


Each state has a Head Start State Collaboration Director, but they do not have oversight of grantees. Instead grantees are managed by Head Start Regional Offices. VA grantees receive oversight from the OHS Regional Office in Philadelphia.


Grantees may be any local public or private nonprofit agency, including community-based and faith-based organizations, school districts, or a for-profit agency. (Note: States are eligible to compete for EHS and EHS-child care partnership grants.)


Grantees who are found to be deficient in meeting Head Start Performance Standards, and/or are facing other specific criteria may have to compete for their funding through a competitive process. Competitions may also be run if Congress provides additional funding.


Organizations seeking Head Start funding must respond to a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) issued by the Federal Office of Head Start in order to receive funding. In most cases, the FOA specifies the city or county in which the children and families must be served. Applicants can specify a geographic area within the city or county, based on a community needs assessment.
Funding Opportunity Announcements specify the amount of funding available per service area and may be found here:
and here


Potential grantees must apply to and negotiate directly with the OHS Regional Office to serve children and families in a specific geographic area, based on a community needs assessment.


A grantee may deliver services in multiple sites and contract with “delegate” agencies to serve children.