Head Start and Early Head Start are the country’s largest early childhood education programs. They provide nearly 1 million children each year with school readiness and socialization skills. Head Start emphasizes the individual needs of each child and celebrates the unique ethnic and cultural characteristics of all.

Core attributes of the Head Start program include:

• Developmentally appropriate early childhood education curriculum
• Services for infants and toddlers through Early Head Start
• Services for children with special needs
• Family health and support services, fostering parent education and involvement

Family Development Services is the sole provider of Head Start for Marion and Hamilton counties, and we served more than 2,500 children and infants in 2014.

How can I enroll my child in Head Start?

There are several ways to submit an application for your child to enroll in Head Start, including online (click here). For information about other application formats, contact the center nearest you (list available here).

How old does my child have to be to get into Head Start or Early Head Start program?

For our Head Start program, the age for enrollment is between 3 and 4. (If your child will be 3 by Sept. 1, he/she is eligible to apply.) For our Early Head Start program, the age for enrollment is from 6 weeks to 2 years old.

What are the income requirements? How do I know if my family qualifies?

Income requirements are set by the federal government and change each year. The best way to see if your family qualifies is to submit an application.

Will my child be able to apply if he/she has a special need?

Yes, we welcome children with special needs. The Multi−Disciplinary Team assigned from your child’s school district will determine the least restrictive environment of learning based on your child’s IEP or IFSP.

If the child’s biological parents are not in the household, what types of documents are required to enroll her/him in the Head Start or Early Head Start program?

Power of attorney document with the seal, adoption papers, or relevant documents stating that the child is temporarily in your care are needed.

Do I need to have the enrollment packet by the time of the intake?

No, the enrollment packet is not required by the intake appointment. However, a lack of immunization records it will prevent your child from getting a slot.

How long will it take for my application to be processed?

From the time Head Start receives your application, it takes from one to six weeks to be processed. A Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist will contact you at that time to complete the application process.

I’ve applied; what’s next?

If you have already completed and submitted an application, the Application Eligibility Review is next. It determines whether your family meets the Federal Income Guidelines and eligibility for the program. The review will also identify which program your child is eligible for. This review involves the following:

• A Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist assigned to your first choice center will contact you to arrange a meeting to verify your family income and your child’s birth date. You will need statements of your family income for the past 12 months. You can show this with a copy of your W-2 form, a written statement from your employer, or Social Security Disability, SSI, or TANF. To verify your child’s birth date bring his/her birth certificate or passport.

• During this meeting, the Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist will take statistical information about you and your family, such as the number of members in your household, your child’s ethnicity, etc.

• After completing this review, your child’s application will be placed on the appropriate list to await consideration for enrollment into one of our programs.

How can I locate the Head Start or Early Head Start program nearest to my home?

There are nine Head Start centers in Marion County and one in Hamilton County. Only few centers have Early Head Start classes. Use the Head Start locator to find the centers near you.

How can my child qualify for a full day slot?

All parents or legal guardians in the household have to be either in school, working, or in a vocational program to qualify for a full day slot. The verification documents will be in your packet.

How can my child qualify for a half day slot?

All qualified families are eligible for half day slots.

Will I need to turn in another application if my child is on the waitlist?

No, your child will remain on the waitlist until a vacancy occurs in that center. If you move, you will need to contact the Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist and he/she will transfer your child’s application to another center without reapplying. If the new school year begins and your child has not been admitted, you will need to reapply.

I’ve met with an Intake Worker; when do I enroll my child?

A Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist will contact you to complete an enrollment packet for the program. Part of the enrollment packet will require getting your child a current physical exam and a dental screening, providing his/her immunization record, and your employment or school verification (full day applications only).

I’ve completed the enrollment packet. When does my child start?

After the packet is completed, you will need to turn in all required documents to the Intake Worker. The Family Advocate/Family Support Specialist will contact you when a slot is available.

How can I receive further assistance or information?

The attendance hotline phone number is (317) 217-1415. You can also visit www.fds.org.