Rhode Island Head Start, Pre-K applications open now for fall, for qualified children, birth to 5

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) is reminding pregnant women and families with children ages birth to age five that Head Start programs are accepting applications for the 2024-25 school year. 

“Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, and Head Start puts them on that path to success,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Rhode Island’s Pre-K program is a national model for providing free, full-day programs for our youngest learners, and I encourage all families with eligible children to apply.”

“Launched in 1965, Head Start is nationally recognized in the field of early childhood education for providing innovative, high-quality, comprehensive support services for children and families to prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond,” said Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Charest. “As the Chair of the Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet, I encourage all eligible families to apply for this great program.”

“DHS is committed to ensuring Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to thrive at home, work, and in the community,” said Kimberly Merolla-Brito, DHS director. “Head Start programs are a critical community partner in supporting families trying to access high quality, early care, and education. Opportunities for our youngest learners will encourage long-term growth, personal enrichment, and success.”

DHS works collaboratively with community partners to deliver critical benefits, supports and services to more than 300,000 families, adults, children, older adults, individuals with disabilities and veterans every year. The agency is part of the solution to end poverty and food insecurity, and is critical in making a lasting, positive impact on the State’s health and future.

“High-quality early learning programs help establish strong foundations for children’s lifelong success,” said Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green. “Rhode Island is proud to offer these opportunities to help prepare our youngest learners to begin school and reach their highest potential. We encourage qualifying families to take advantage of these incredible programs and apply today.”

Early Head Start and Head Start services are free of charge to enrolled children and families and adhere to the evidence-based Head Start Program Performance Standards. Children and families in all 39 cities and towns are eligible for services and they are delivered through seven agencies- CHILD, Inc, Children’s Friend, Comprehensive Community Action Program, East Bay Community Action Program, Meeting Street, Tri-County Community Action Agency, and Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association, Inc., who structure their programs to meet needs of families in their community. Head Start programs deliver services to children and families in core areas of early learning, health, and family well-being while engaging families every step of the way. 

Families with the greatest need are prioritized for enrollment.

Once a family is enrolled, they are entitled to maintain their slot until their child ages out of the program. Families who meet one or more of the following criteria, are considered categorically eligible and are encouraged to apply: 

  • Living at or below the Federal Poverty Level
  • Receiving Public Assistance
  • SNAP
  • SSI (child)
  • RI Works
  • Foster Care
  • Experiencing Homelessness 

Early Head Start is for pregnant women and children through age 3 and is available in a home-based or center-based option. Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships are available to families who meet the Head Start guidelines and receive Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) voucher issued through DHS ages birth to 3, in a center-based setting. Head Start is offered through center-based slots for children ages 3-5.

Families must apply to the provider that serves their community. Providers will help families understanding the enrollment requirements. More information and the contact information for each provider can be found on the DHS website at . Slots are limited, so families should contact their local program today. 

All RI Head Start providers also operate RI Department of Education funded RI Pre-K classrooms. The RI Pre-K Lottery is now accepting applications for children who are 4 years old by September 1, 2024, and who live in the following 21 communities: Bristol-Warren, Central Falls, Coventry, Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, Lincoln, Middletown, Newport, North Kingstown, North Providence, Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Providence, Smithfield, South Kingstown, Warwick, Westerly, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.  

To be eligible to attend, children must be 4 years old by September 1, 2024, be residents of one of the identified RI Pre-K communities, and not be eligible for kindergarten. The application lottery closes on June 24, 2024. To apply to the RI Pre-K Lottery, visit

More information on the 2024-2025 RI Pre-K Programs can be found at .

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