head start

Head Start (HS) provides no-cost full day/full year child care for eligible families and their children ages 3 to 5 at agencies in your local community.

Find out if you’re eligible for funding assistance

How does it work?

The program prepares children to enter school ready to learn and supports a child’s mental, social, and emotional development. Head Start programs also provide participating children and their families with information on health, nutrition, social development, and other services.

HS programs serve nutritious breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks to your child at no cost to your family. Depending on the program location, your child may be brought to and from school by an adult who is at least 18 years old.

The Philadelphia School District runs its own Head Start centers and also partners with private pre-kindergarten providers in the area.

Am I eligible:

You are likely eligible for Head Start if:

  • Your child is between the ages of 3 and 5
  • You meet income guidelines: Your child’s eligibility to receive HS funding is based on your family’s size and income. To be eligible to receive HS funding, your total annual family income must be 100% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Look below to see whether you’re likely to quality for HS funding based on the number of people in your family and how much you make:
Family Size
Maximum Yearly Family Income (2018)
2 $21,398
3 $27,014
4 $32,630
5 $38,220
6 $43,862
7 $49,478
8 $55,094

Each child care provider may also have specific requirements for enrollment. For instance, in an area with high incarceration rates, the local HS provider may prioritize children with an incarcerated parent. You must check with the HS provider closest to you to determine individual eligibility.

Families experiencing homelessness or children who are in foster care are automatically eligible to receive Head Start funding.

Families who receive SSI or TANF are also automatically eligible.

How to Apply?

To see if your family is eligible for Head Start, you will need to contact a Head Start program directly.

Find a Head Start program in your area by:

  • Visiting our quality child care map here
  • Visiting Great Philly Schools ECE here and inputting your zip code
  • Using the Head Start Locator here (and below)
  • Calling 1-866-763-6481 (toll-free)
  • Call the Office of Early Childhood Education at 215-400-4270 and request a Pre-K Head Start Registration packet to be mailed to you

Once you have identified a local program, contact them directly for more information. They will provide you with the required forms and can answer questions about their specific program.

The information needed to complete an application may include: 

  • Completed Head Start Application
  • Verification of your child’s birth
  • Verification of your family’s total income
  • Photo ID of Parent / Guardian
  • Your child’s immunization record and Health Assessment
  • Child’s IEP or CER (if applicable)

** NOTE: Children are entitled to Head Start funding regardless of immigration status.**

Where can I learn more?

other available funding

Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC)
The ELRC helps qualified families pay for child care fees
Early Head Start
Early Head Start (EHS) provides no-cost full day/full year child care for eligible families and their children under the age of 3.
Head Start
Head Start (HS) provides no-cost full day/full year child care for eligible families and their children ages 3 to 5 at agencies in your local community.
Pre-K Counts
Pre-K Counts provides no cost pre-kindergarten education for eligible children ages 3 to 5.
PHLpreK provides locally funded, affordable pre-K programs for 3 and 4 year olds.
Eligibility Calculator
Use the Eligibility Calculator to find out if you qualify for child care and pre-K funding.
Call Center
For help locating and applying for pre-K and other quality child care programs, call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735).
COVID-19 Update:
  • Check out our blog: Recommended activities and resources for families and providers during COVID-19
  • Essential workers seeking childcare: Call the Early Learning Resource Center at 215-382-4762
  • To get updates from the City of Philadelphia about COVID-19, text COVIDPHL to 888-777