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A carrier holds a variety of school supplies in Amy Richardson’s kindergarten classroom at Woodland Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Head Start is a federally funded preschool program with a goal to get kids ready for kindergarten. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (JENNIFER SHEPHARD) (Buy this photo)

Woodland Elementary School kindergarten student Nevaeh Olsen, left, and DaKyra White, right, sit in the front of the class as teacher Amy Richardson reads a book during class Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Head Start is a federally funded preschool program with a goal to get kids ready for kindergarten. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
Head Start has a huge waiting list, but parents should still apply

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Somewhere between 500 and 600 children are put on a Head Start waiting list each year in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.

The two-county consortium has federal funding for 1,020 children. That doesn't cover everyone who qualifies for the low-income preschool program, according to Vera Cavalcante, a Head Start family and community specialist.

But families should still apply, she said, because it's likely a spot will open up.

Here's how to sign up for Head Start

The following Head Start sites are holding open enrollment: (All sessions are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

March 11, 12, 13 Elkhart Area Career Center, 2424 California Road, door 13, Elkhart
March 25, 26, 27; April 29, 30; May 20, 22 Elkhart Schools administration building, 2720 California Road, Elkhart
April 1 , 2, 3 Woodview Elementary, 800 Woodview Drive, Nappanee
April 1, 2, 3 York Elementary, 13549 SR 120 E, Middlebury
April 3, 4 (April 4 is 9 a.m. to noon) Jimtown Elementary, 30046 CR 16-W, Elkhart
April 14, 15 Bristol Elementary, 705 Indiana Street, Bristol
April 22, 23, 24 Goshen Schools administration building, 613 E. Purl Street, Goshen
May 27, 28, 29 Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave., Elkhart

"Our population is very mobile," Cavalcante said. "Our waiting list moves all the time, so the first step is: apply. Once a spot is open, you have a chance to get in."

Families with children in Head Start tend to move often, probably because they are going where the jobs are, Cavalcante thinks. 

Local Head Start sites are doing open enrollment now. Attending one of these sessions is the best way parents can get their children into the program, although there's a way to sign up online, too.

Parents should bring their child's birth certificate and proof of income for the past 12 months. Most of the time, people bring tax returns, Cavalcante said, but parents could also bring proof that they've received TANF benefits or child support over the past year.

Other information Head Start personnel would like to see includes:

  • Medicaid or Hoosier Health Wise number for child and primary adult
  • Private insurance name and number if child is covered under family plan
  • Contact information for the child's medical and dental doctors
  • Three emergency contacts
  • immunization records

Head Start is free for families who qualify, though Cavalcante said parents often call wondering how much the program costs. 

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 can go to Head Start, including children with special needs.

To find out more about Head Start or to sign up online, visit