Child Care

Head Start and Early Head Start

Last updated: March 04, 2024

Head Start and Early Head Start

Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded programs designed to improve the school readiness of children in low-income families. Children receive comprehensive services that provide for the education, health and emotional growth of the child.

  • Head Start serves low-income children and their families in the two years prior to kindergarten entry.
    Early Head Start serves low-income pregnant women and children from birth to age 3.

Both programs offer a wide range of services to low-income children and their families. Services provided include education, health, dental health, mental health, and nutrition. In addition, the programs provide services for families including intensive social services, parent education programs, housing assistance, and adult education. Both Head Start and Early Head Start focus on the entire family, not just the child. A minimum of 10% of placements in Early Head Start and Head Start are reserved for children with disabilities.

Due to funding limitations, not all programs are able to provide services to all eligible children. Many programs have wait lists. Also, as a way to ensure that the children most in need are served, some programs limit income eligibility more strictly than the maximum described below.

Who Qualifies?

  • The child/family must reside within a town located in Rhode Island.
  • The child must be age-eligible. For the Early Head Start program, the woman must be pregnant or the child must be between the ages of birth to three years old. For the Head Start program, the child must be between the ages of three and five years old, but not eligible for Kindergarten due to their age.
  • All Rhode Island programs accept families with income at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (see chart below). Some programs may accept families with incomes up to 130% of the Federal Poverty Level if there is capacity. A foster child or any family that receives SSI benefits or any amount of cash assistance from the Rhode Island Works program is automatically income-eligible.

For more information and help finding a provider call DHS at 1-866-763-6481 or visit the DHS page on Head Start.

How to Apply

Programs have different application procedures, so contact your local program directly. View a list of programs.

Income Limits: Head Start (Jan 2024)

Family SizeAnnual Income Limit (100% FPL)
Annual Income Limit (130% FPL)
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