Head Start in Texas: Everything You Need to Know

The Head Start Program is a federally-run program that aims to help promote the readiness of children ages 0-5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start programs help provide learning environments to young children that supports their growth in many areas—such as language, literacy, and social skills.

Head Start programs help to prepare some of America’s most vulnerable children to succeed in  life and in school. While it is a federally-run program, individual states are still responsible for the allocation of funds to those families who demonstrate the need for them. Texas, like all other states, has its own set of guidelines for who qualifies for these services as well.

In this article, we’ll talk more about the Head Start Program, as well as the requirements you’ll need to adhere to if you’re hoping to get your child enrolled in Texas.

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The Head Start Program began in the 1960’s as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” campaign, in which he sought to completely eliminate poverty and racial inequality from American society.  New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, rural poverty, and transportation were all launched during this period. 

“Project Head Start” was originally launched as an eight-week summer program in 1965. The program was first led by Dr. Robert Cooke—a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins University—and Dr. Edward Zigler, a professor of psychology as well as the director of the Yale Child Study Center. 

Together, they designed a comprehensive development program intended to help disadvantaged communities meet the needs of their preschool-aged children. The following year, in 1966, it was authorized by Congress as a year–round program. 

In Texas, the program has helped hundreds of thousands of children learn how to foster stable family relationships, enhance their physical and emotional well-being, and has created environments that help them develop strong cognitive skills.

As Head Start is generally reserved for those children who are at a disadvantage economically speaking, if you’re hoping to get your child enrolled in the program yourself, you’ll need to make sure you and your family meet the eligibility requirements Texas has set forth. 

In the following sections, we’ll discuss everything you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re considering applying for the program, such as:

  • Does my family qualify?
  • How do I apply?
  • Finding a Program Near You

By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of the eligibility requirements of the Head Start Program in Texas and whether or not your child qualifies based on your circumstances!

Does My Family Qualify?

In general, children from birth to age five from families with low income (as defined by the Federal Poverty Guidelines established by the government) are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services. 

Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance such as TANF or SSI benefits are also typically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services. Since they have already demonstrated need, children enrolled in these services qualify for Head Start automatically.

In Texas, as in the other 49 states, this means that a family of two (meaning just you and your child) would need to make less than $18,310 to be within federal guidelines. For a family of 3, that increases somewhat, to $23,030. 

If you have a larger family and would like to see if your income falls within the appropriate income guidelines, you can check the federal guidelines at the link above. 

How Do I Apply?

Head Start, while as previously mentioned is a federal program, truthfully it’s only federally funded. Individual programs are run by local communities to best serve their population’s most vulnerable children. 

To that end, if you know you already meet the income requirements due to your yearly income or your enrollment in other benefit programs, all you need to do to apply to your local Head Start Program is contact them! 

They can help you figure out for sure if your child qualifies, give you the forms you need, and tell you what other documents you’ll need to submit. If it turns out there isn’t any space for your child at the moment, you can also ask for them to be added to the waiting list for the following year. 

Finding a Program Near You

Fortunately, it’s rather easy to find a local Head Start Program near you! To start, all you need to do is use the Head Start Center Locator to find the closest to your home. From there, you can call the phone number listed to find out the next steps in the process.

If you need more help locating a Head Start program near you, you can always call toll-free National Hotline at 1-866-763-6481, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. ET to get in touch with someone who can help you find more information.  


At the end of the day, the most important thing you need to know about qualifying for the Head Start Program is whether or not your income falls within the Federal Poverty Guidelines established by the government. While each state has its own offices dedicated to processing applications and enrolling local children into the program, the guidelines for qualifying in Texas are the same as they are in the majority of other states.

If your family does fall within these guidelines, however, Head Start is a wonderful program that can really help equip your child with the physical, mental, and emotional skills they’ll need to help them succeed in life! Every child is deserving of a quality education, regardless of how much money they come from. 

If you’re hoping to get your child enrolled in the Head Start Program in Texas, the best thing you can do is find the center located closest to you by utilizing the link above and asking them about how to get started!

Looking for additional help in Texas? Here’s our guide to critical government assistance programs in Texas.

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