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Head Start/Early Learning

Research shows that strengthening parent-child and family relationships can improve children’s well-being and school readiness. Nurturing these relationships is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty and encouraging self-sufficiency for future generations. We offer the tools and support that early-childhood educators need to help strengthen relationships in families.

A little boy with a backpack runs down the street

According to the Office of Head Start (OHS), Head Start programs “build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community.” We believe that integrating relationship education into Head Start/Early Head Start programs will offer early-childhood service providers meaningful tools they can use to strengthen families and improve the lives of children. 

Common elements between Head Start and healthy relationship programming that make integration of the two initiatives a natural fit include:

  • a focus on serving populations at risk of family instability or economic disadvantage;
  • services and education designed to strengthen families, promote child well-being, and encourage economic security;
  • operation in community-based settings with the ability to adapt to localized needs and conditions; and
  • demonstrated evidence of improving substantive research-based outcomes for individuals, families, and children.

Integrating Marriage and Relationship Education into Head Start Settings: Building Partnerships to Strengthen Children, Families, and Communities (PDF, 503 KB) is a free Resource Center tip sheet that outlines the usefulness of marriage and relationship education as a strategy for helping families, possibilities for integrating such efforts in Head Start settings, and best practices to consider when exploring partnerships between marriage and relationship education and Head Start.

Learn more about the research on relationship health and early-childhood development, as well as strategies for integrating relationship skills into your agency’s current service offerings.

Want to learn more? Visit our Library for more free related and family-related resources in a variety of formats. View library resources on youth and families or use the search to find information on a particular topic.

Additional Resources

Watch the free webcast Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework: Parent and Family Engagement Outcomes (HHS/ACF/OHS. 2011. English. Streaming Video. 00:12:01) in which OHS Director Yvette Sanchez Fuentes and Early Head Start parents discuss the critical role parents play in children’s development and learning, including: how program environment sets the tone for family engagement; how family well-being is an important program goal; and how parent-child relationships play a significant role in a child’s growth and development.

This webcast is part of the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework Webcast Series from the OHS that offers an opportunity to hear directly from parents and program staff about the importance of family engagement early in the life of a child.

The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework: Promoting Family Engagement and School Readiness, From Prenatal to Age 8 (PDF, 2 MB) is a report from the OHS that lays out a research-based approach to program change, showing how an agency's systems and service areas can work together to promote parent and family engagement and children's learning development.

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