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Get Your Child the Right Start With Sure Start

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

  • Full-day preschool program for eligible dependents
  • Health and nutrition services that include medical, dental and developmental screenings as well as nutritious snacks and lunch at no charge
  • Social services that provide for close cooperation with existing community resources for Sure Start families
  • Parent-involvement services that provide for two-way communication between parents and teachers, opportunities for parents to participate in their child’s learning experiences as well as participation in two home visit and school conferences

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 enrolling school year and be a command-sponsored dependent.

  • Ranks between E-1 and E-4 or rates the civilian equivalent have first priority.

Additional selection criteria may apply:

  • Lives in a single-parent household
  • Had a low birth weight
  • Has an older sibling with severe disabilities
  • Lives in a home with three or more kids close in age
  • Has a parent who did not graduate from high school
  • Has a parent who was a teenager when the first child was born
  • Has a parent whose primary language is not English
  • Has a parent who 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 Sure Start and Head 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. Head Start uses income to determine eligibility.
  • Sure Start does not use a child’s disability status to determine eligibility. Head Start reserves at least 10% 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 works 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 College and Career Ready Standards and adopted 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 local 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 Learning page to see if your child is eligible to apply for Sure Start.

In addition to the Sure Start resources, families with exceptional family members should check out the EFMP & Me online tool. You’ll find a wealth of information covering your needs, including planning and task checklists. A short information video gets you started!

While your child is getting started on the right foot, Penn State’s Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy have partnered together to provide comprehensive, on-demand parenting programs to assist you in handling parenting challenges at any age. Learn more about Thrive, the free, online parenting education program that includes positive parenting practices, parent and child stress management and physical health promotion.

Children and Youth Benefits sums up, by service branch, a number of options for child care, before- and after-school services and developmental classes. And if you find yourself needing an extra set of hands as you juggle your busy family schedule, check out the Expanded Hourly Child Care Options available on Military OneSource. Solving your child care needs is now at the tips of your fingers!

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