At 1 year old, Caleb* couldn’t sit up on his own or crawl—signs of severe developmental delays. He required extensive early childhood intervention services, and his older brother had disabilities as well. But the boys’ mother, coping with depression and limited financial resources herself, struggled to keep up with their special needs. She turned to the Upbring Early Head Start Preschool in Bay City, Texas, for help obtaining the services her sons needed.

The federally funded Head Start program was launched in summer 1965 to help break the cycle of poverty, including its impact on education. Today 1,600 agencies deliver Head Start programs to more than 1 million American children from low-income families.

Since 2015, Upbring has provided Head Start services as part of our mission to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect in Texas. Here are just a few of the reasons to enroll your child in Head Start—and set the stage for a lifetime of learning and success.

  1. Free preschool. All Head Start and Early Head Start programs are free to eligible families. Most of the children Upbring serves come from families whose household incomes fall at or below the federal poverty level. Children may also be eligible for Head Start if they have disabilities, are in foster care or are experiencing homelessness. We also serve free, nutritious meals and snacks each day.

  2. From birth to age 5. We often think of kindergarten as the start of school, but so much learning happens before kids even set foot in elementary school. Head Start is open to children ages 3 to 5 while Early Head Start, which formally came along in 1995, enrolls children up to age 2. The programs are full-time and year-round, providing continuous learning opportunities for students as they grow.

  3. High-quality, personalized education. At Upbring Head Start Preschools, children engage in educational programming taught by qualified teachers and teaching assistants. Our students not only learn how to count, read sight words and recognize shapes and colors, but also strengthen their problem solving, critical thinking and social skills. Our supportive staff creates individual learning plans for each student, following the national performance standards for all Head Start programs.

  4. Help with special needs. At Head Start, students receive routine speech, language and hearing screenings to identify and address problems early on. In fact, Head Start reserves at least 10 percent of its enrollment for children with disabilities who qualify for early childhood special education. Upon being accepted to Upbring’s Early Head Start Preschool, Caleb began receiving the support he needed, right at school—so his mother no longer had to worry about coordinating the services outside of the school day.

    Within two years of attending Early Head Start, Caleb was playing on his own and running around with his peers. At age 3 he was accepted into Head Start, where he continued receiving services to support his ongoing development.

  5. A voice for parents. A hallmark of Head Start is its focus on family wellbeing. Parents, grandparents, foster parents and other caregivers are encouraged to be involved in their child’s education. This engagement helps form positive relationships and ensures that the preschool experience is both personalized to them and culturally relevant. Plus, each family enrolled in Head Start is assigned a family advocate who can answer your questions, help with next steps and make sure we deliver the support you need.

  6. Wraparound family support. When a family is stable and supported, children thrive. Head Start can connect your family with job placement resources, parenting skills training, health services, even transportation options. This array of resources was especially helpful when Caleb’s mother wound up leaving their family. Upbring Head Start guided his dad in applying for food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and more. Eventually, Caleb’s father was able to obtain a steady job to support himself and his children—which, in turn, supported their educational success.

  7. Kindergarten readiness. By the time a student graduates from Head Start, they’ll be ready (and excited for!) kindergarten. Upbring Head Start works with local school systems in Texas to deliver Head Start and to ensure the smoothest possible transition. Today Caleb is in first grade, still receiving special education services and improving every day.

Upbring Head Start and Early Head Start Preschools provide a safe, inclusive place for children from low-income families to learn, grow and thrive. Learn more about our 36 Texas campuses and apply online at upbring.org/headstart.

*While Caleb’s story is true, we have used a pseudonym to protect his and his family’s privacy.

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