Created in 1965, Head Start is the most successful, longest-running, national school readiness program in the United States. It provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Nearly 25 million pre-school aged children have benefited from Head Start nationwide. In 2013, more than 20,000 children and their families received Head Start services.

Because less than half of eligible children are served through the federal Head Start program, in 1985 the State of Washington created the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), a comprehensive "whole child", family-focused preschool program designed to help low-income and at-risk children and families succeed in school and life. The program was modeled after Head Start, and served over 10,000 children in 2014.

ECEAP and Head Start provide an intensive combination of education, health and nutrition screening and assistance, parent involvement and family support. Three- and four-year-olds attend high-quality pre-school classes, are screened and immunize for possible health problems that could hinder learning. Family needs are assessed so that families can be referred to community resources, and adults are provided with training to improve their parenting, leadership, and self-sufficiency skills. These programs have been successful in preparing children for school, identifying and addressing health and nutrition issues, and helping parents with parenting, leadership and self-sufficiency skills. Parents are involved both in the classroom and through local parent-run policy councils.

For more information about these programs and who they serve, please check our program fact sheets.

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