ECEAP & Head Start

ECEAP (pronounced "E-Cap") is the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program funded by Washington State for children 3 and 4 and, in some locations, infants or toddlers who are younger than 3 years old.

Head Start is funded by the federal government for children ages 3 and 4 and, in some locations, pregnant women and children birth to age 3.

Both ECEAP and Head Start include:
  • Free early learning child care or preschool to support child's development and learning. In some locations, Head Start may also offer home-based services.
  • Family support and parent involvement.
  • Child health coordination and nutrition.
  • Services responsive and appropriate to each child's and family's heritage and experience.

Children who attend ECEAP and Head Start learn to manage their feelings, get along with others and follow classroom procedures. They build the beginning skills for reading, math and science. The programs work closely with parents to support their children’s health and education and to meet family goals. They help families access medical and dental care and social services.

Children in this type of high-quality program nationwide are:
  • Healthier when they start kindergarten.
  • Less likely to be in special education or repeat a grade in school.
  • More likely to graduate from high school and go on to college.
  • Less likely to become pregnant as a teen or become involved in a crime.
  • More likely to be employed and to earn more as an adult.

More About the Programs

  • Head Start is for 3- to 5-year-olds.
  • Early Head Start is for pregnant women and children birth to age three. It promotes healthy prenatal outcomes, enhances the development of infants and toddlers, and promotes healthy family functioning. Children are served in their homes or in centers.
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start is for pregnant women and children birth to age five give in communities with migrant and seasonal workers.
  • Tribal Head Start serves American Indian and Alaska Native children birth to age five and their families. Services are located on or near reservations.
  • ECEAP is for 3- to 5-year-olds.
    • Part Day classes are 2 ½ or more hours, several days a week, during the school year.
    • School Day classes are 5.5-6.5 hours per day, 4 or 5 days a week, during the school year.
    • Working Dayclasses are at least 10 hours a day, year round, combining child care and ECEAP. Parents must meet work or training requirements.
  • Early ECEAP is for 0- to 3-year-olds.
    • Classes are up to 10 hours a day, year round. Parents must meet work or training requirements.
       

Enrollment

Most children are eligible for ECEAP and Head Start based on their age and family income. Up to 10% of ECEAP and Head Start slots can be filled by children above the income requirement who have multiple support needs, including:

  • Environmental factors such as homelessness, family violence, chemical dependency, foster care, or incarcerated parents.
  • Developmental factors such as developmental delay or other special needs.

In addition, children with disabilities who qualify for special education services and/or previously participated in certain birth to age three programs are also eligible for ECEAP.

After eligibility is determined, children are prioritized for enrollment as space is available in their communities. While ECEAP and Head Start have similar eligibility criteria, there are some differences:

Head Start children must be 3 to 5 years old for preschool Head Start; pregnant or 0 to 3 years old for Early Head Start, and:

  • From families at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, with priority to those at or below 100 percent or
  • Homeless, in foster care, or from families with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash grant.
  • Some children may be accepted who are over the income limit if they have developmental or environmental factors..

ECEAP children must be 3 years old but not yet 5 years old on August 31st of the school year, and:

  • From a family with income at or below 36% of the state median income (SMI), which includes all children in foster care and all families with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  (TANF) grants,
  • Is a tribal child defined by rule from Washington State federally recognized tribes and DCYF, and from a family with income at or below 100% SMI,
  • On Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for special education,
  • Experiencing homelessness, or
  • Has participated in:
    • Early ECEAP,
    • Early Head Start (EHS),
    • Early Support for Infants and Toddlers ESIT) or received class C developmental services from another state, or
    • Early Childhood Intervention and Prevention Services (ECLIPSE)
  • Some children may be accepted who are over the income limit, if they have developmental or environmental factors.

Early ECEAP children must be an infant or toddler younger than 3 years old, and:

  • From a family with income at or below 50% of SMI,
  • Is a tribal child defined by rule from Washington State federally recognized tribes and DCYF, and from a family with income at or below 100% SMI,
  • Receiving early intervention services with an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP),
  • Experiencing homelessness, or
  • Has participated in:
    • EHS
    • ESIT or received class C developmental services from another state, or
    • ECLIPSE