All Head Start programs offer full-day, year-round care for families. Programs are at least eight hours long and are open during the school year and the summer. Head Start programs offer safe, positive learning environments for children aged three to four to learn, to play, and build the skills that get them ready for kindergarten and beyond.
Children in Head Start programs get nutritious meals and health screenings, and families get support in accessing the health services they need. Head Start programs help parents and families achieve their own goals, including employment, housing, and adult education. Head Start has some eligibility requirements for families. If you qualify, your child can begin a program any time during the year.
There are also spaces available in Early Head Start programs, which serve pregnant mothers, infants, and toddlers.
Who is Eligible?
The best way to find out if your family is eligible for Head Start is to contact a program directly. A more detailed overview of Head Start eligibility is below.
Early Head Start and Head Start programs are free, high-quality early childhood education programs that support the whole family. Programs run for at least 8 hours per day, and offer a safe, positive learning environment for children to learn, play, and build the skills that get them ready for kindergarten and beyond. Programs also provide services and resources for families to ensure holistic support for the entire family. Additionally, programs run all year long, offering care and education during the school year and in the summertime. The Department of Education (DOE) offers these programs through our community-based early childhood partners.
Early Head Start provides care for toddlers ages two-years old and Head Start serves three- and four-year-old children in centers. Both programs provide nutritious meals and health screenings for enrolled children, and support in accessing health services for their families. The programs also help parents and families achieve their own goals, including employment, housing, and adult education.
Head Start is funded by federal grants, which require families of children in the programs to be eligible for services. Qualifying children can begin a program any time during the year. Families may qualify if one or more of the following criteria apply:
- Family income falls within the federal guidelines
- Live in temporary housing
- Receive HRA Cash Assistance
- Receive SNAP
- Receive SSI (Supplemental Security Insurance)
- Enrolling a child who is in foster care
The best way to find out if your family is eligible for Head Start is to contact a program directly. Visit MySchools to find a program near you. The program will ask you for one or more documents to verify your eligibility. These documents may include:
- Income Tax Form 1040
- TANF documentation (i.e. Cash Assistance)
- SSI documentation
- Pay stub or pay envelopes
- Unemployment documentation
- Foster care reimbursement
- Written statement from employers
Eligible families are welcome to enroll in Head Start programs regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Programs may not ask for proof of citizenship or legal immigration status when applying for Head Start.
Head Start Income Eligibility: HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2023
|PERSONS IN FAMILY/HOUSEHOLD ||POVERTY GUIDELINE |
|1 ||$14,580 |
|2 ||$19,720 |
|3 ||$24,860 |
|4 ||$30,000 |
|5 ||$35,140 |
|6 ||$40,280 |
|7 ||$45,420 |
|8 ||$50,560 |
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,140 for each additional person.
Programs may be able to enroll a small number of families that have incomes over this threshold. If you are interested in a Head Start program and your family income is higher, you are still encouraged to apply; the program will reach out if they have capacity to serve additional families.
If you are not eligible or are seeking other early childhood services
There is a free Pre-K for All seat for all four-year-olds in New York City, and a free 3-K for All seat for three-year-olds in a growing number of communities. These programs operate for the length of the DOE school day and year. For more information, visit nyc.gov/prek and nyc.gov/3k or call 311.
How to Apply
Head Start programs can enroll children at any time throughout the year, if your family is eligible and there is a seat available.
- Visit MySchools to find a program near you.
- Apply through the program.
Questions about Head Start?
Call 311 to ask about early childhood care and education and help you explore your options.
If your child is currently in Early Intervention, learn more about your preschool options on the Moving to Preschool page.
2022 NYC Public School Admissions Guide
View or download the new 2022 NYC Public Schools Admissions Guide! This book provides an overview of admissions processes and resources for EarlyLearn (childcare for eligible families), 3-K, pre-K, kindergarten, middle school, and high school, including a section on how to use MySchools.
Print copies are available in 10 languages at schools, early childhood programs, libraries, and other sites now.