Early Head Start

Supporting what all families need to thrive.

The foundation for lifelong learning is built during the critical early years.

Babies are born curious and ready to learn!  The foundation for lifelong learning is built between pregnancy and age three.  Young children in poverty are at risk for falling behind starting at birth, but Early Head Start helps. Reaching more families with proven services to support positive early development is an important policy to promote school readiness.

Early Head Start offers babies safe care and crucial developmental services, helps parents find employment and work toward their goals, and works at the community level to address the needs of the most vulnerable young children and families. Despite Early Head Start’s effectiveness, it reaches far too few eligible families. According to the State of Babies Yearbook: 2023, Early Head Start programs had space for only 11 percent of eligible infants and toddlers.

Early Head Start is the only federal program dedicated to comprehensively promoting healthy child and family development for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers living in families with incomes below the poverty line. As a two-generation program, Early Head Start creates opportunities for both parents and their babies and toddlers, helping parents improve their economic security while ensuring their young children are on a solid path to engage in lifelong learning.

Early Head Start is a critical support for babies and their families.  Learn more.

Take Action

Act now to expand access to Early Head Start. Tell Congress to increase funding for Early Head Start to reach more babies and their families. #ThinkBabies

Meet baby Zaia and our other 2024 Strolling Thunder babies


In a rigorous study, Early Head Start showed positive impacts across a broad set of factors, including boosting babies’ learning, language, health, and behavior.


Nearly 1 in 5 infants and toddlers live in poverty and are eligible for Early Head Start.


Early Head Start only reaches 11% of eligible infants and toddlers.

Legislation At-A-Glance

Funding Early Head Start

Early Head Start promotes the healthy development of babies, toddlers, and pregnant people to ensure that all children have the same opportunities to succeed. However, this critical program’s current funding only allows it to serve 11% of eligible families. Each year, Congress has the opportunity to increase funding for Early Head Start through the Appropriations process.

What it could mean for babies:

With additional funding, Early Head Start could expand to ensure that more babies and families with low incomes across the country get the support they need to thrive. Expanding Early Head Start helps lay a strong foundation for infants and toddlers, boosting learning, language, health, and behavioral development.

Advocacy Tools & Resources

Building Strong Foundations: Read this brief for information on how comprehensive approaches like Early Head Start support infants, toddlers, and families.

25 Years of Early Head Start: Watch this video to learn more about the program and its impact on the lives of babies and their families over the years.

State of Babies Yearbook: 2023: Use national and state-by-state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers to call on federal, state, and local policymakers to improve outcomes for babies and families.