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New policy makes it easier for children to access Head Start programs

As inflation and the expiration of federal child tax credit payments put the squeeze on family budgets and the child poverty rate rises, some relief has arrived for American families struggling to make ends meet. 

In California, families receiving CalFresh benefits are now automatically eligible for Head Start early learning programs. This change will remove significant barriers from the application process for families receiving public assistance, simultaneously reducing burdensome paperwork snarls and increasing access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education.

“Families are more stressed than ever before trying to stay afloat, and this action will help us to reach more families while also reducing the burden on those families to enroll,” said Keesha Woods, executive director of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Head Start and Early Learning Division.  

Advocates have long championed simplifying the exhaustive process families go through to prove eligibility for aid. As many Head Start participants also receive food aid, accepting that enrollment as proof of Head Start eligibility represents a significant streamlining of the eligibility process. 

“This is a win towards equitable access to early learning opportunities for the many families in Los Angeles County confronted with food insecurity,” said Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo. “Providing young children with a quality early education should not be an additional burden, but an exciting milestone that families can celebrate.”

The shift aligns with President Joe Biden’s executive order that aims to reduce red tape for users of federal services and rebuild trust in government.

“This policy change is wonderful news and has a significant impact on our families,” said Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County superintendent of schools. “With this change in eligibility, our Head Start and Early Head Start programs will increase the number of eligible Santa Clara and San Benito county families by approximately 25%.”

 


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