Washington, DC- With kids heading back to school this week, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), highlighting county by county data, called to end the opportunity gap keeping thousands of eligible children from attending much needed Head Start and Early Head Start. Most recent data shows less than 10% of eligible Pennsylvania children up to three years old are able to attend Early Head Start which is generally due to lack of funding. The current funding gap leaves 10,000 eligible three to four year olds in Pennsylvania out of Head Start.
“Head Start is one of America’s essential early childhood programs that provides families with high quality early learning experiences to educate the whole child,” Senator Casey said. “In the long term, high quality early learning contributes to a reduction in the need for special education, lower juvenile justice rates, improved health outcomes, increased high school graduation and college matriculation rates, and increased self-sufficiency and productivity among families.”
Head Start Eligibility
Head Start eligibility is determined through a variety of factors: families with income at or below the poverty line, children from homeless families, families receiving TANF or SSI, foster children, and families with disabled children are all eligible. If a Head Start agency ensures it is meeting the needs of all children in those categories, then it can also serve children whose families have incomes below 130% of the poverty line.
In order to be placed on a Head Start waitlist, families must fill out the entire application and complete the Application Eligibility Review. The need for slots varies widely by county, and the size of a Head Start waitlist can depend on the strategy of that particular Head Start center. In smaller counties like Somerset, fewer Head Start slots are needed. In Harrisburg, the Capitol Area Head Start program encourages every eligible family to apply to the waitlist to highlight the unmet need.