About Head Start

What is Head Start and Early Head Start and what do they offer?


Head Start and Early Head Start are comprehensive child development programs which serve children from birth to age five and their families. The programs are child-focused and have the overall goal of increasing the school readiness of young children in low-income families.

Both programs provide a range of individualized services in the areas of education, medical, dental and mental health, nutrition and social service to children and their families. Parent involvement is encouraged and support is offered for children with disabilities. Ten percent of the programs' total enrollment opportunities are made available to children with disabilities.

Drake University Head Start, including Early Head Start, is the largest Head Start grantee in the state of Iowa and one of only a few university-based Head Start programs in the nation. Drake University Head Start serves children from birth to age three through the Early Head Start program and children ages three and four and their families through the 3 and 4-year-old preschool program.

What does the Drake University Head Start 3 and 4-year-old program offer?


The 3 and 4-year-old program currently serves more than 900 children and serves 6 counties: Polk, Jasper, Marion, Boone, Warren and Story (Ames only).

Thirty-six centers are available to families in the six counties, as well as, a Head Start Home Program in Polk County. Des Moines Public Schools is a part of Drake University Head Start as a delegate of the program and offers 15 of the 36 center options.

A variety of services are offered to children and their families who participate in the program, including nutrition and health. Depending upon the session length, each classroom offers 1/3 to 2/3 of each child's daily nutrition requirements.

Low teacher/student ratios and individualized instruction are offered in each center. Drake University Head Start teachers have earned four-year teaching degrees.

Literacy is a strong component of the program and family literacy services are offered to Head Start children and their families.

Who is eligible to participate in Drake University Head Start and Early Head Start?

Children from birth to age 5 who meet federal poverty guidelines may be eligible for Head Start services. Drake University Head Start has established priorities for enrolling children based upon child and family circumstances, community needs and available funds. Drake University Head Start may accept children whose family income exceeds federal poverty guidelines.