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Head Start Program: Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford's head start\early head start program can help put your child on the fast track to later success in life. The time before a child begins school is one of the most formative times of a child’s life, and at Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford, we understand the vital investment parents have in their children’s future. For example, a young couple named Tyrone and Beverly , parents of a little girl, have constantly heard how critical this time is for their child’s development.

Their daughter Taylor is three years old and loves to play with water colors and listen to her parents read to her every night. Though she’s still a few years from starting school, and though Tyrone and Beverly try to fill her days with mentally-stimulating activities, her parents wonder how they can make sure Taylor has a solid foundation for learning when she does begin school. Tyrone himself remembers the early struggles he had as a young student.

It always seemed like his classmates were ahead of him on almost everything, including reading. While he can’t pinpoint not attending any form of early education before kindergarten as the reason for his struggles, given all that he’s read, he can’t help but wonder. He and Beverly want Taylor to avoid those struggles, but, unfortunately, they don’t make a lot of money, and preschool programs are expensive. Fortunately, as you’ll see below, Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford’s head start\early head start a great alternative option.

Like Taylor’s parents, you’ve probably heard the term early childhood education before, and while its meaning might sound obvious, it’s an important field of study for helping children get the best educational foundation possible. Early childhood education refers to the time in a child’s life from birth to when they begin school in kindergarten. The reason why it’s important is because it is the first time children are exposed to important life skills such as interacting with others, including classmates and teachers. 

A child will, of course, be exposed to those things when they begin kindergarten, but wouldn’t you love for your child to have a good foundation before starting school to build on?

Teachers, wouldn’t you love to see students less afraid and more capable of interacting with others when they begin school because they’ve been exposed to those experiences already?

Children come to school with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and personality traits. Some are more outgoing than others, but being outgoing doesn’t automatically translate to good people skills. Just as a child who is naturally quiet isn’t incapable of developing solid social skills. 

Children face many firsts throughout life, but there’s no reason for them to face so many firsts at once when they start school. Instead, early childhood education can give them a firm foundation of the skills most necessary to be successful in school.

Here are some of the things early childhood education focuses on:

  1. Social Development
  2. Emotional Development
  3. Cognitive Development
  4. Physical Development

Social Development

The ability to interact well with peers, teachers, parents, and other adults

Emotional Development

The ability to self-regulate and express emotions in a healthy way

Cognitive Development

The ability to gain knowledge, acquire skills, exercise critical thinking, and solve problems

Physical Development

Growth of the body, fine motor skills, muscle development, senses


Children will continue to develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically throughout their early lives, but early childhood education is dedicated to giving children an early foundation in these developmental domains as well as helping them to begin to discover their interests, which will be valuable for them, their parents, and their teachers later on when trying to learn how to best engage the child in learning.

The Head Start program aims to provide the context for strong early childhood education to take place.

What is the Head Start program?

The Head Start program came as a result of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty,” which he declared during his State of the Union address in January 1964. Because significant research showed that poverty had a tremendous negative impact on education, government leaders in the United States felt an obligation to provide aid to disadvantaged groups due to social and economic inequality.

These inequalities were keeping children from having the same educational opportunities as less disadvantaged children, so the first Head Start program began as an eight-week proof of concept designed to break the destructive cycle of poverty.

The program provided a holistic early childhood educational program, meeting the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs of preschool children from low-income families. The idea behind the program was to make an integrated part of a community, culturally responsive to the community’s specific needs, and utilizing the contributions of community volunteers and donations.

Since the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) were published in 1975, which were the guiding standards regulating Head Start programs, the program has continued to improve in the following ways:

The program continues to evolve, implementing newly discovered best practices and incorporating scientific research findings to ensure the program is serving children in the best way possible. Since it was first started in 1965, the Head Start program has served 36 million children. The program has also since evolved from an eight-week initiative to full-day and full-year programs with a lot of flexibility for low income families. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families administers Head Start grants, allowing the program to serve more than 1 million children and their families from urban, suburban, and rural areas across the nation. 

While more privileged families have access to a variety of preschool or early education programs, Head Start provides some benefits that those programs don’t provide. These include not only giving economically disadvantaged children a quality preschool education, but it also addresses the following needs:

In this way, Head Start isn’t just giving children a firm academic foundation; it is creating an environment for children to thrive, becoming well-rounded children who have the opportunity to become well-rounded adults. For low income families, this kind of environment is often an unattainable dream. Without a caring educational environment, these children are often set up for failure before they even begin.

That means for Taylor, because her parents can’t afford to send her to a quality preschool, she’ll not only be economically disadvantaged when she begins attending school; she’s likely to be academically disadvantaged as well. She might watch her classmates excel while she gets more and more behind as she gets older.

Head Start is designed to eliminate that possibility.

What are the benefits of a Head Start program?

If you enroll your child in a Head Start program, you can enjoy the following benefits.

  1. Preparation for kindergarten
  2. Social and emotional development
  3. Health benefits
  4. Parent support
  5. Better academic performance
  6. Increased likelihood of high school graduation
  7. More likely to exhibit greater responsibility later in life

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

Preparation for kindergarten

Children who attend a Head Start program are beginning to learn many of the skills they wouldn’t be exposed to until kindergarten otherwise, such as early learning in reading and writing. Imagine wanting to take piano lessons. The first thing your teacher would likely cover is the naming of the musical notes because that’s the most basic skill you need to know in order to learn how to play any musical instrument. 

But imagine that you already know the names of all the notes. Maybe you already play another musical instrument, perhaps guitar, for example, so you already learned the names of the notes to play guitar, but you don’t know anything beyond that to play piano. The good news is that you’ve already got a solid foundation to begin learning piano more quickly than if you came with no knowledge whatsoever.

Head Start takes many of the skills that children learn in kindergarten and gives them a head start on them. Children who attend Head Start are generally more prepared for kindergarten than children who do not attend, performing better on academic benchmarks by the end of kindergarten as well. They are also more likely to have higher attendance rates when they do begin attending school. They tend to be physically healthier as well.

Social and emotional development

For children who have never experienced a classroom environment before, being suddenly thrust into this new environment in kindergarten comes with a bit of a learning curve. It should come as no surprise that these children struggle to interact with others, self-regulate their emotions, behave accordingly, and so much more.

Children who attend a Head Start program, however, begin learning how to function well in a classroom environment before they get to kindergarten, creating a more positive experience for the children, their teachers, and their parents. These children tend to show significantly better social-emotional development than children who don’t attend Head Start or other early learning programs. They demonstrate better social skills and impulse control, as well as better overall behavior in school as a result of a Head Start early learning experience.

Health benefits

A significant concern for low income families is health because health care costs, especially with the more family members in a household, can be quite expensive. But children who attend a Head Start program have been shown to have better overall health than children who do not attend. They’re more likely to have their required immunizations and access to regular dental care. Additionally, they’re less likely to become cigarette smokers later in life.

Parent support

Low income parents want to provide the best opportunities for their children that they can, and Head Start can help them to achieve that. Head Start is designed to be a partnership with parents to help give children an early start on the skills they need to be successful as students in school. As such, parents of children in Head Start tend to provide more intellectually stimulating home environments, reading to their children regularly, and investing in at-home learning activities with their children. In fact, studies have shown that involvement with a Head Start program has a positive effect on how children are treated by their parents years down the road.

Better academic performance

Children who attend Head Start exhibit higher cognitive gains than children who don’t attend. This means higher vocabulary and higher academic scores. Most of all, children who attend Head Start are more likely to graduate high school and attend college.

More likely to exhibit greater responsibility later in life

Any parent wants their child to grow up making wise decisions that lead to their success. Head Start graduates are less likely to become teen parents and less likely to commit crimes that lead to incarceration. Because Head Start is focused on benefiting students holistically, children learn how to not only be successful academically, but as responsible citizens as well.

How Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford’s Head Start\Early Head Start can help

At Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford, America’s largest nonprofit healthcare organization, we partner with early childhood centers and Head Start/Early Head Start programs in the greater Chicagoland area, including south and west suburbs in Cook County. This partnership includes supporting privately owned centers to enable them to continually improve in providing the highest quality of holistic early learning experiences for children in low income families. 

We aim to promote school readiness in young at-risk children, regardless of ability, from families who are socio-economically, environmentally, or developmentally disadvantaged. We have both center-based and home-based programs that combine high-quality early learning experiences for children with resources and services to support the entire family as well as educators.

Our Head Start/Early Head Start programs are known to provide high-quality family-centered education for preschool age children from birth to 5 years of age.

The Benefits of our Head Start/Early Head Start Services

Aligned with Federal Head Start Program Expectations

In addition to the benefits outlined above, Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford’s Head Start\Early Head Start is aligned with the expectations for federally-recognized Head Start programs, so you know you’ll be getting the best early childhood education for your child possible.

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford Early Services Department is funded by two separate grants for Head Start/Early Head Start Services. We are a grantee of the Office of Head Start for services provided in suburban Cook County and a delegate of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services for services provided in Chicago.

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford is also an awardee of the Illinois State Board of Education for Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative in suburban Cook County. We are a grantee of the Office of Head Start for services provided in suburban Cook County and a delegate of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services for services provided in Chicago.

Our Locations: Head Start Programs Near You

Chicago Locations

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford partners with private childcare centers in the city of Chicago.

South Suburban Locations

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford partners with private childcare centers in south suburban Cook County.

West Suburban Locations

Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford partners with private childcare centers in west suburban Cook County.

Here’s a map of all of our Head Start program locations.

To learn even more about our Head Start program to see if it’s right for your family, take a look at the Parent Handbook.

Why you should consider enrolling your child in a Head Start program

As you’ve seen, Head Start provides a number of benefits that will help your child get on the fast track toward school success and beyond. Not only will you be helping your child prepare for kindergarten by giving them a head start on skills they’ll need to perform well with others and succeed academically; you’ll be providing them with a firm foundation to be a well-rounded child on the path to becoming a well-rounded adult. Additionally, Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford’s Head Start\Early Head Start program aims to provide your family with much-needed support as a partner in your child’s educational journey.

We looked at Tyrone and Beverly’s story at the beginning of this article. They were worried about Taylor’s educational path toward success because they didn’t think they could afford a quality early learning program for her, but with Head Start, they know she’ll be given all the help she needs to be ready for school and for life.

To get your child enrolled in an Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford Head Start\Early Head Start, fill out our online application.

Our early learning programs are recognized for high quality, family-centered education for children ages 0 to 5 years. View our program flyer with details and additional contact information. 
Virtual Socialization flyer -or- Download the flyer in Spanish

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NEW! Online Application

From direct family support services and coaching to help with data entry, program monitoring and technical assistance, professional development, connections to community resources, and assistance with facility needs and supplies...We provide excellent resources to each Head Start Center.

We've made it quick and easy for you to apply for Head Start/Early Head Start services.

New! Transitioning to Kindergarten for Family and Staff

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 Staff Resources - Go Now!

 Family Resources - Go Now!


New! Remote Learning – Resources for Families

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Head Start Portal

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The Benefits

Head Start/Early Head Start provides hands-on, comprehensive quality services giving children and their families the opportunity for a brighter future and a head start to success. Learn more about the benefits.

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Head Start/Early Head Start Teams

As a result of joint planning, direct support services, ongoing monitoring, and professional development, sites achieve full compliance in all content areas. Sites have access to the following resources.

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Chicago Locations

Easterseals partners with private childcare centers in the city of Chicago.

South Suburban Locations

Easterseals partners with private childcare centers in south suburban Cook County.

West Suburban Locations

Easterseals partners with private childcare centers in west suburban Cook County.

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Head Start Weekly Updates

Our Early Learning Services Team gathers the best resources and activities to provide to our parents and families. Many families are participating in Virtual Learning so we've gathered all the goodies needed to learn adn grow from home in one place.

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Parent Handbook

Download the 2021-22 Parent Handbook

Parent Handbook PFA & PI Supplement 2021

Parent Handbook Home-Based Supplement 2021

Parent Handbook Center Based Supplement 2021

Easterseals Head Start/Early Head Start Offices

4415 W. Harrison Street, Suite 510
Hillside, IL 60162

708.330.4490
headstart@eastersealschicago.org

Easterseals is funded by two separate grants for Head Start/Early Head Start Services. We are a grantee of the Office of Head Start for services provided in suburban Cook County and a delegate of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services for services provided in Chicago. Easterseals is also an awardee of the Illinois State Board of Education for Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative in suburban Cook County. We are a grantee of the Office of Head Start for services provided in suburban Cook County and a delegate of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services for services provided in Chicago.

Annual reports: Chicago FY2018 Annual ReportSuburban 2017-2018 Annual ReportChicago FY2017 Annual ReportSuburban 2016-2017 Annual Report

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