Early Head Start is a federal, two-generation child development program for low-income children under the age of 3 and their families; as of 2007, it was serving approximately 63,000 children in some 700 communities. After its rapid expansion during the 1990s and a period marked by little expansion from 2001 through 2008, Early Head Start received $1.1 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which enabled it to serve an additional 55,000 children.
In 1995, the Early Head Start program, in accordance with congressional mandate, began a rigorous, random-assignment evaluation in 17 of the first sites funded. Here, we describe (a) features of the Early Head Start program, (b) methods of the Early Head Start program evaluation, (c) findings when children were 3 and when this cohort of children ended the program, and (d) methods of the follow-up study conducted when children were 5 (findings from the follow-up study have recently been released in another venue).
CHARACTERISTICS OF EARLY HEAD START PROGRAMS
Early Head Start had its beginnings in 1994 when Congress passed legislation reauthorizing Head Start and mandating that up to 3% of the Head Start budget for 1995 be used to establish a new program of comprehensive services for families with infants and toddlers below preschool age. That same year, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala convened a committee of experts in the field of early education and infant development to lay out the principles and operating features for the new program.