Early childhood education for Wisconsin families and their children


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Frequently Asked Questions about Head Start & Childcare

Is my child eligible for Head Start or Early Head Start?

Children from birth to age five are age-eligible for Head Start (preschool children ages three to five) or Early Head Start (birth to age three and pregnant women).  All children enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start must be age-eligible.  If age-eligible, a child is categorically eligible to participate in Head Start if the:

– Child’s family income is at or below the federally determined poverty guideline,
– Child’s family is receiving public assistance (TANF or SSI)
– Child’s family is experiencing homelessness, or
– Child is a foster child.

Additionally, up to ten percent of children enrolled in the program may be over income and at least ten percent of enrolled children must have a diagnosed disability.

How do I know what Head Start/Early Head Start program(s) exist in my local area?

Use our interactive map to see what Head Start and Early Head Start programming is available in Wisconsin by county.  If you’re interested in seeing what programming is available in other areas of the country, use the Head Start Locator at the Office of Head Start’s Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website.

How do I get my child enrolled into Head Start or Early Head Start?

You will need to contact the local Head Start or Early Head Start program(s) in your community.  To identify available programming in your local area, please see the above question.  Your local program will provide you with the required enrollment application forms and answer your questions about the program and your child’s involvement.

Does Head Start enroll children with disabilities or special needs?

Yes.  Ten percent of the total number of children enrolled in each Head Start program must be children with diagnosed disabilities.  Children with diagnosed disabilities are determined to be eligible for special education, early intervention, and related services by state or local agencies providing services under section 619 or part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

What are my options if my child is ineligible for Head Start?

Please see the “I need help choosing a childcare provider . . .” question below.

How can I be involved in Head Start?

Head Start welcomes parent volunteers.  As a volunteer, you can help teachers in the classroom or on field trips, aid in preparing materials, assist in renovating centers, support parent education activities, and more.  Ask about volunteer opportunities at your local program.

Where can I find information about Wisconsin’s child care subsidy program?

Information about Wisconsin Shares, Wisconsin’s child care subsidy program, is available at the Department of Children and Families website on its Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program page.  You’ll find general  information on Wisconsin Shares as well as parent-specific information regarding eligibility, where to apply, a lists of child care coordinators.

I need help choosing a childcare provider.  Where can I find out about my options?  Is there a childcare rating system in place in Wisconsin?

Regardless of whether or not your child is eligible or enrolled in Head Start, Wisconsin’s Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Agencies can help connect you with childcare services in your local community regardless of whether or not your child is eligible or enrolled in Head Start.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) includes a Licensed Child Care Search on its website.  The Search contains information on the location and regulatory history of the almost 6,000 childcare centers and day camps licensed by DCF and can assist you in learning more about licensed childcare in your area.

You may also want to look at DCF’s Tips for Choosing Child Care page to aid in finding a suitable caregiver for your child.  The Tips page includes basic information on licensed and certified childcare and offers a list of important questions for you to consider or to ask potential caregivers before deciding on a childcare provider.

Additionally, DCF’s implementation of YoungStar, the state’s childcare quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), is underway.  YoungStar is intended to improve childcare throughout the state, make it easier for parents to choose the best child care for their kids, and link childcare provider quality to payments from the Wisconsin Shares program.   It sets a five-star rating system for childcare providers based on education, learning environment, business practices and the health and well being of children.  As parents, YoungStar will help you ensure that your child receives the best care by offering incentives for childcare providers who demonstrate higher quality and aiding you in identifying the highest quality providers.  Childcare provider ratings are not yet available but will be in the coming months.  With this information, you will be able to make the smartest choice for your child when selecting a childcare provider.