Implementing Early Head Start Home-Based Option Meets HHS Criteria

Model implementation profile last updated: 2020

Model overview

Theoretical approach

Early Head Start is a comprehensive two-generation federal initiative aimed at enhancing the development of infants and toddlers while strengthening families. The model is founded on nine principles:

  1. High quality services;
  2. Activities that promote healthy development and identify atypical development at the earliest stage possible;
  3. Positive relationships and continuity, with an emphasis on the role of the parent as the child’s first and most important relationship;
  4. Activities that offer parents a meaningful and strategic role in the program’s vision, services, and governance;
  5. Inclusion strategies that respect the unique developmental trajectories of young children in the context of a typical setting, including children with disabilities;
  6. Cultural competence that acknowledges the profound role culture plays in early development;
  7. Comprehensiveness, flexibility, and responsiveness of services that allow children and families to move across various program options over time as their life situation demands;
  8. Transition planning; and
  9. Collaboration with community partnerships that allow programs to expand their services.

Early Head Start includes home- or center-based services, a combination of home- and center-based services, and family child care services (services provided in family child care homes). The focus of this report is on the home-based service option (Early Head Start Home-Based Option). The information in this profile describes the Early Head Start Home-Based Option unless specified otherwise.

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Implementation support availability

The Early Head Start program, which includes the Early Head Start Home-Based Option, is administered by the Office of Head Start in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

ACF regional offices oversee the administration of ACF programs, including the Early Head Start program. The regional offices guide the programmatic and financial management of Early Head Start programs in their jurisdictions and provide assistance, resources, and information to the various entities responsible for administering these programs.

ACF's Office of Head Start and Office of Child Care collaborate to provide training and technical assistance (T/TA) across early care and education programs to support the delivery of high quality services to children and families. The T/TA consists of (1) direct funding to grantees; (2) regional T/TA specialists; and (3) six national centers. These centers act collectively as comprehensive providers of resources, information, and training to build early care and education program capacity and promote consistent practices across communities, states, tribes, and territories.

Training and technical assistance materials are available on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center website.

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Intended population

The Early Head Start Home-Based Option serves low-income pregnant women and families with children younger than age 3. To be eligible for services, most families must be at or below the federal poverty level. Early Head Start programs must make at least 10 percent of their enrollment opportunities available to children with disabilities who are eligible for Part C services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in their state. Each individual program is allowed to develop specific program eligibility criteria, aligned with the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

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Targeted outcomes

The Early Head Start Home-Based Option aims to (1) promote healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, (2) enhance the development of very young children, and (3) promote healthy family functioning.

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Model services

Early Head Start Home-Based Option services include a minimum of (1) weekly 90-minute home visits and (2) two group socialization activities per month for parents and their children.

Early Head Start Home-Based Option programs must implement a developmentally appropriate, research-based early childhood home visiting curriculum that does the following:

  • Promotes the parent’s role as the child’s teacher through experiences focused on the parent-child relationship and, as appropriate, the family’s traditions, culture, values, and beliefs;
  • Supports individualization and growth in the areas of development described in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five and, as appropriate, state early learning standards;
  • Supports measurable progress toward goals outlined in the framework; and
  • Includes plans and materials for learning experiences based on developmental progressions and how children learn.

Programs must provide parents with an opportunity to review the selected curricula and instructional materials used in the program.

If a program chooses to modify a curriculum substantially to better meet the needs of one or more specific populations, it must (1) partner with an early childhood education curriculum or content area expert and (2) assess whether the adaptation adequately facilitates progress toward school readiness goals.

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Model intensity and length

Early Head Start Home-Based Option programs provide at least 1 home visit per week per family (with a minimum of 46 home visits per year) lasting for a minimum of 90 minutes each. They also provide a minimum of 2 group socialization activities per month for children and their families (with a minimum of 22 group socialization activities each year).

Early Head Start Home-Based Option services are provided to eligible pregnant women and families with children from birth until the child’s third birthday.

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Adaptations and enhancements

No information is available about any adaptations and enhancements made to the model. No information is available on the process, if any, for considering modifications to the model.

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Organizational requirements

According to the Head Start Program Performance Standards, Early Head Start programs can include (1) entities operating Head Start programs; (2) entities operating American Indian, Alaska Native, or Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs; and (3) other public, nonprofit, or for-profit private entities, including community- and faith-based organizations.

Early Head Start requires all programs to meet a set of ongoing fidelity guidelines outlined in the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Please contact the model developer for additional information about these guidelines.

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Staffing requirements

Early Head Start Home-Based Option programs include several primary staff positions:

  • Home visitors who conduct home visits with families and facilitate group socialization activities;
  • Home visitor supervisors;
  • Comprehensive services staff (such as disabilities and health specialists); and
  • A director who oversees the program.

In addition, Early Head Start programs must have (1) family, health, and disabilities management staff, and (2) education management staff.

Home visitors providing home-based education services must have a minimum of a Home Visitor Child Development Associate (CDA), a comparable credential, or equivalent coursework as part of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Home visitors are also required to demonstrate competency in planning and delivering home-based learning experiences that (1) effectively implement the home visiting curriculum; (2) promote children’s progress across the standards described in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five, including children with disabilities and dual language learners, as appropriate; and (3) build respectful, culturally responsive, and trusting relationships with families. Supervisors must have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a bachelor’s degree in any field with equivalent coursework in early childhood education and teaching experience in early childhood settings.

Head Start Program Performance Standards require an organizational structure and staffing patterns to support full implementation of all requirements for the Early Head Start Home-Based Option. At a minimum, the Head Start Program Performance Standards require that such programs conduct performance reviews, use the results to identify training and professional development needs, and assist in improving staff skills and professional competencies.

Programs must monitor curriculum implementation and fidelity, and they must provide support, feedback, and supervision for continuous improvement of implementation through a system of training and professional development. Early Head Start recommends several supervision strategies to retain, develop, and support staff. They include consistent, formal, reflective supervision and opportunities for home visitors to meet together. The Early Head Start Home-Based Option does not require a specific frequency of supervision, local programs determine supervision frequency.

At a minimum, the Head Start Program Performance Standards require that Early Head Start programs provide an orientation to all new staff that includes the goals and philosophy of the Early Head Start program and how they are implemented in the individual program. In addition, all staff must be trained on how to implement the curriculum. The Office of Head Start does not require programs to provide pre-service training for supervisors Please contact the model developer for additional information about the pre-service training requirement.

Early Head Start programs must establish and implement a systematic approach to staff training and professional development, with the potential for academic credit when possible. At a minimum, the training and professional development system must include the following:

  • A minimum of 15 hours of staff professional development per year;
  • Training on methods to handle suspected or known child abuse and neglect cases, as aligned with applicable federal, state, local, and tribal law;
  • Training for child and family services staff on best practices for implementing family engagement strategies in a systemic way; and
  • Research-based approaches to professional development for education staff.

The Office of Head Start does not require specific in-service training for supervisors. Local programs determine their own in-service training requirements. Please contact the model developer for additional information about the ongoing professional development requirements.

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