Center-Based Head Start & Early Head Start

Free and low-cost center-based programs for children birth to five in Franklin, Hampshire, and Western Hampden Counties.
Educator sitting with two toddlers

Overview

We create engaging early learning experiences for young children in a range of classroom settings: 

  • Part-day/school year programs for preschoolers in Franklin and Hampshire counties
  • Extended-day/school-year programs for children birth to five in Westfield and for preschoolers in Orange and Agawam
  • Full-day/full-year programs for children birth to five in Amherst, Northampton, and Turners Falls

All program options include "comprehensive services." These services help you meet your goals for your family and for your child’s development. A Family Advocate will be your partner in a long-term relationship with your family. We also have staff who support health, mental health, nutrition, and more.

Center-Based Head Start & Early Head Start

What We Do:

  • We offer part-day and full-day child care and high-quality education
  • We build a strong relationship with your family
  • We partner with you to meet your goal
  • We provide meals, snacks, diapers, and formula as needed while in care

Who are these services for?

Part-day services are available for preschool children. Extended-day and full-day services are available for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. See Overview for services by town.

Part day/Extended day:

There are many ways that your child could be eligible for our part-day and extended-day options.

  • If your family has a low income
  • If anyone in your family receives SSI, DTA Cash, or SNAP benefits
  • If your child is a foster child
  • If your family is staying with friends or family temporarily, living in a shelter or motel, or otherwise without housing

Full Day:

There are many ways that your child could be eligible for our full-day options.

  • If your family already has a child care voucher
  • If your family has an open case with the Department of Children and Families
  • If your family’s income is under 50% of the State Median Income and parents in your family have a need for childcare (employment, school or job search)

To learn more about how you may be eligible, click here.

How do I sign up for Part-day or Extended-day?

  1. You can apply online here or call 413-387-1250.
  2. Once you apply, one of our enrollment staff members will contact you to start the process.
  3. Before we can place you on the waitlist, we will meet with you virtually or in person. We will collect documentation of your eligibility. We will also collect your child’s birth certificate and health records. During our meeting with you, we will discuss what other program options interest you.
  4. Once we have everything we need, we will place you or your child on our waitlist.
  5. When we have openings in our program, we accept participants from the waitlist. If we accept your child into the program, we will notify you either by phone or letter.
  6. Before you or your child can begin the program, your Family Advocate will meet with you to finish enrolling.

How do I sign up for Full-Day?

Our full-day, center-based program is for families who are eligible for financial assistance through the state of MA. There are different ways to get financial assistance for childcare.

  • If you have an open case with the Department of Children and Families, your social worker can send us a child care referral.
  • If you already have a child care voucher, please apply online here or call 413-387-1250.
  • Or, you can be on the state waitlist for child care. Our program and other programs in the area have access to this waitlist. To get onto the state waitlist for child care:
    • Apply online, here, or call 413-387-1250 and we can add you.
    • Call 211 for the Massachusetts Child Care Information Line.

Once we have an opening in the program, we will refer to our internal waitlist and the MA state waitlists to accept children into the program. If we have a space for your child, we will notify you by phone or letter. Before your child can begin in the program, our enrollment staff will meet with you. During this meeting, we will collect required documentation and information.

This process can be complicated! Please call and we are happy to help you and answer your questions!

What can I expect once I am enrolled?

Your child will attend one of our center-based sites with highly-qualified Educators. Hours per day and days per year vary by site and classroom. You will get to know your child’s caregiving team and how your classroom works.

Center-Based Head Start includes “comprehensive services.” These services are whatever YOUR family needs to meet your goals for your child and family. A Family Advocate will be your partner and will get to know your family and your hopes, wishes, and goals. You will also hear about our support staff, experts in mental health, special needs, and more. We can’t wait to meet you!

How do I connect someone else to Center-Based Head Start?

If you work for a community organization, you can refer someone to our program. Please click here to download our Referral Form. Once you return the form, we will reach out to the family. Your referral will give them priority for enrollment.

Apply Today

CONTACT INFO FOR THE PROGRAM

HS & ELP Enrollment Office
Phone: 413-387-1250
Email: hselpenrollment@communityaction.us

Centers

  • Amherst Community Child Care
    • 413-548-1290
  • Vernon St, Northampton
    • 413-387-1240
  • Ware
    • 413-277-1275
  • Central St, Turners Falls
    • 413-475-1520
  • G St, Turners Falls
    • 413-475-1400
  • North Orange
    • 978-575-0522
  • Agawam
    • 413-654-1340
  • Westfield
    • 413-654-1750

Weather Lines

  • Franklin County
    • 413-475-1560
  • Hampshire County
    • 413-387-1260
  • Hampden County
    • 413-654-1760

Transportation Lines
For bus cancellation details, open the Parent Handbook linked below to find the phone number for your site.

Forms, Documents & Downloads

Head Start Annual Report 2022
2024 HS Poverty Guidelines
English Parent Handbook 2023-24
Arabic Parent Handbook 2022-23
Nepali Parent Handbook 2022-23
Spanish Parent Handbook 2022-23
Policies and Procedures 2023-24 English
Policies and Procedures - Arabic
Policies and Procedures - Nepali
Policies and Procedures - Spanish
COVID Protocols - English
COVID Protocols - Nepali
COVID Protocols - Arabic
COVID Protocols - Spanish
HS & ELP Referral Form

IF YOU QUALIFY FOR THIS PROGRAM, YOU MAY ALSO QUALIFY FOR:

"I love the strong bonds and relationships built together, I've had several children go through the program at our site and I've loved all the teachers. My children have made lasting friendships with other students and I have been able to meet so many parents and share our experiences, hopes and goals for our families. I believe Head Start is a fantastic opportunity for building a better foundation for our kids' futures."
Head Start Parent

Frequently Asked Questions

Our staff are highly qualified, often beyond state and Head Start requirements. Most of our Educators have Bachelor’s degrees. All Teacher Assistants have at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or are earning one.  Full-day centers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). All centers are part of the state’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS).


Our primary curriculum is the Creative Curriculum. All curricula we use align with Head Start Performance Standards, Department of Early Education and Care Frameworks, and National Association for the Education of Young Children criteria.


Infant and toddler classrooms usually have 8 children with 3 Educators. Depending on the preschool site, classrooms have up to 18 children with 2 or 3 Educators.


Children in part-day classrooms usually have a meal and a snack. Children in extended and full-day classrooms have two meals and a snack. All meals and snacks are free to families. We follow the USDA Non-Discrimination Statement, which families can read here.


Children can enroll whether they are potty-trained or not. We will work with your family to support your child’s development and your toilet training goals. Diapers are provided by the program for all children who need them.


We are only able to provide transportation at our North Orange site, for select families.


We always want to hear from you about what’s going well and what could be better! To read our Parent and Community Complaints Policy, click here.


If your child is currently enrolled in a full-day slot and you’d like to pay online, click here.


Our Mission: We partner with families in all that we do and believe that parents are the experts on their children. Together, we build a solid foundation for resilient and resourceful caregivers; caring, confident, and curious children; and responsive, invested communities.