The overarching goals of Early Head Start focus on the healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development of infants and toddlers. Research on early brain development has demonstrated that, to thrive, children from birth to age three need a variety of positive learning experiences provided in a secure and loving environment. In recognition that parents are the primary educators of their children, EHS programs are designed to work with families to ensure that the developmental needs of each child are met.
Ongoing assessment of each child’s skills and behaviors plays a key role in developing a curriculum that is age-appropriate, culturally sensitive and tailored to meet his or her specific needs. Parents play an active role in the assessment process. Their observations, ideas and concerns about their children contribute substantively to the assessment, and their involvement helps to ensure that the curriculum and goals planned for the child are appropriate within the context of family and culture.
In providing services to infants and toddlers, EHS must support the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language development of each child. Services that must be provided directly or through referral include:
- Early education services in a range of developmentally appropriate settings.
- Home visits, especially for families with newborns.
- Parent education and parent-child activities.
- Comprehensive health and mental health services.
- High-quality child care services, provided directly or in collaboration with community child care providers.