Two young boys coloring.

Get Your Child the Right Start With Sure Start

Sure Start is a Department of Defense Education Activity program for command-sponsored children stationed at overseas installations. If you’re a qualifying military family, it could be a great fit for your child. The program provides:

  • Education services
  • Lunch and snack provisions
  • Health and nutrition services
  • Social and parent-involvement services
  • Dental, medical and developmental screenings

Sure Start: Is your child eligible?

Sure Start assists qualified preschool-age military children living overseas. To qualify, your child needs to turn 4 years old by Sept. 1 of the current school year. Your child also must meet one of these requirements:

  • Lives in a single-parent household
  • Had a low birth weight
  • Has a severely disabled older sibling
  • Lives in a home with four or more kids close in age

An eligible child also must have at least one parent who meets one of these criteria:

  • Ranks between E-1 and E-4 or rates the civilian equivalent. Exceptions may be made, but these kids are given priority.
  • Did not graduate from high school
  • Was a teenager when the child was born
  • Speaks anything but English as their primary language
  • Is on a remote assignment or temporary duty for at least three months

What’s the difference between Sure Start and Head Start?

Sure Start is built on the same foundation as Head Start but fits better into the Department of Defense Education Activity culture and regulations.

Both Head Start and Sure Start:

  • Use a four-tiered delivery system: education, health and nutrition, social services and mandatory parent involvement
  • Run medical, dental and developmental screenings for students and provide follow-up assessments if needed
  • Provide no-cost, nutritious lunches and snacks
  • Encourage family involvement
  • Cater to students' ages, individual needs and cultures in environment, curriculum, materials, routines and daily activities
  • Follow a full-day program

How is Sure Start different from Head Start?

  • The Department of Defense Education Activity oversees the Sure Start program.
  • Sure Start considers a military sponsor's rank its first priority for enrollment, while Head Start uses income to determine eligibility.
  • Sure Start does not use a child's disability status to determine eligibility, while Head Start reserves at least 10 percent of slots in each classroom for children with disabilities.
  • Parent involvement in Sure Start is mandatory.
  • Sure Start staffs two adults for every 18 to 20 students. Local or state licensing boards determine Head Start’s staff-to-child ratios.
  • Sure Start staff work with Department of Defense Education Activity special education staff to determine the best placement and services for a child.
  • Sure Start programs follow the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Pre-K Foundational Standards curriculum. Head Start chooses curriculum at the local level.

If you think your preschooler may be a good fit for the Sure Start program, contact your school liaison, your installation’s elementary school or your Military and Family Support Center. You can look up contact information at MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. Or Visit the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Early Childhood Education website to see if your child is eligible for Sure Start.