Head Start and Universal Pre-Kindergarten

Head Start is a federal government program that was created in 1965 to give preschool children from low-income families a “head start” on their readiness for elementary school.

Family Services of Westchester operates five Head Start locations in White Plains, NY. Enrollment is open to families who live in the White Plains City School District and meet federal income eligibility requirements.

Read our 2017-2018 Annual Report here

Read our 2019 Community Wide Strategic Planning and Needs Assessment here


Head Start’s Educational Mission

Head Start is more than a preschool program. It supports parents and families in their vital roles as the primary influencers on their young children’s education and development by helping them sharpen their parenting skills and navigate the school system.

In addition to providing a comprehensive top-quality preschool education, Head Start also provides health and nutrition education to its students and their families.

Head Start emphasizes cognitive and language development, social and emotional development, physical and mental health and parent involvement. Participating Head Start families establish a “medical home” where children receive ongoing routine health and dental care.

In addition, parents have access to support programs that help the family move toward economic self-sufficiency. Within Head Start, four-year-olds can be enrolled in Universal Pre-Kindergarten in collaboration with the White Plains City School District.

Head Start Is an Inspiring National Success Story!

Head Start and Universal Pre-K have a proven track record of success! Many studies over the years have demonstrated that involvement in Head Start and Universal Pre-K significantly improves children’s health and their success in school.

For example, the 2004 Head Start Family and Experiences Survey (FACES) found that Head Start helped children overcome severe early socioeconomic handicaps. Compared with more affluent U.S. children of the same age, the Head Start children surveyed were essentially at national norms in early reading and writing and close to catching up with national norms in early math and vocabulary knowledge.

The same study found that English Language Learners (ELLS) benefited from Head Start as well. Because of Head Start, the proportion of ELLS with limited or no understanding of spoken English dropped from 35 percent to 13 percent.

A national evaluation of Early Head Start found that three-year-olds who participated in the program performed significantly better on a range of measures of cognitive, language and social-emotional development than a randomly assigned control group. Even more impressive, their parents scored significantly higher on many aspects of home environment and parenting behavior. Having a child enrolled in Early Head Start also facilitated parents’ progress toward economic self-sufficiency.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten 

FSW’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program in the City of White Plains, serves 4—5 year old children in warm, nurturing, supportive classes staffed by experienced, dedicated New York State-certified early childhood education teachers and aides.

Universal Pre-K is approved by the New York State Department of Education in collaboration with the White Plains City School District, licensed by the New York State Office of Children & Family Services and staffed by New York State-certified early childhood education teachers.

UPK works in partnership with parents and recognizes them as the primary teachers of their children. Parents are encouraged to become part of their child’s educational experience by participating in classrooms, group meetings, trips and teacher conferences.

UPK is sensitive to each family’s lifestyle, values and cultural preferences. Each child is viewed as unique and is guided to reach his/her potential. Class size and a high adult/child ratio support individuality. Children are encouraged to problem-solve, experiment with developmentally appropriate materials and establish social relations through self-directed activities and special projects.

Breakfast is provided by federal funds through the Child Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Universal Pre-K Educational Goals:

  • To provide a developmentally appropriate, child-centered, comprehensive, individualized and family-focused early childhood education program
  • To prepare children for kindergarten, excited about learning and ready to succeed
  • To adhere to the New York State Department of Education’s Pre-Kindergarten Learning Standards.
  • To have children enjoy learning through play, both individually and in small groups with peers
  • To enhance the talents, abilities and strengths of every child
  • To efficiently integrate with the White Plains City School District

How to Apply for Head Start

To apply for Head Start a parent or caregiver must:

  • Have proof of living in the White Plains City School District (such as a utility bill or phone bill)
  • Have a birth certificate for the child who is applying
  • Meet federal income eligibility requirements

Information and Application for Head Start and Early Head Start (Información y aplicación para Head Start y Early Head Start)


How to Apply for Universal Pre-K

Enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year is now open. (child must turn four (4) by December 1, 2020 to be eligible).

To apply for Universal Pre-Kindergarten, a parent or caregiver must:

  • Have proof of living in the White Plains City School District (such as a utility bill or phone bill)
  • Have a birth certificate for the child who is applying
  • Meet federal income eligibility requirements

Application information can be found HERE on WPCD website. 

White Plains Central School District:

White Plains Public Schools
Universal Pre-Kindergarten
Family Information Center
500 North Street
White Plains, NY 10605

If you have any questions regarding the UPK Application Process, please contact Gail Epstein at gepstein@wpcsd.k12.ny.us or call the Family Information Center at (914) 422-2038.

Matricula abierta para Head Start y Universal Pre-K

Aun tenemos espacios vacantes en Head Start y Universal Pre-K

  • Los aspirantes a ambos programas deben mostrar certificado de nacimiento y prueba de residencia two little boys lying on the rug readingen el distrito escolar de White Plains (por ejemplo, factura de agua, luz o teléfono)
  • Los aspirantes  a Head Start también deben cumplir los requisitos federales de ingreso; los aspirantes  a Universal Pre-K deben haber cumplido 4 años para el 31 de diciembre del 2020.
  • Para mayor información y/o aplicar a los programas, favor contactar a Carol Kelly, Teléf.: (914) 997-0147, ext. 11, email: ckelly@fsw.org.  También puede hacerlo llenando el formulario a continuación.

Head Start and Universal Pre-K Locations

Family Services of Westchester’s five Head Start/Universal Pre-K locations in White Plains are:

Eastview Center
350 Main Street
White Plains, NY 10601

North Street Center
First Baptist Church of White Plains
456 North Street
White Plains, NY 10606

Rochambeau Center
Early Childhood Education
228 Fisher Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Slater Center
2 Fisher Court
White Plains, NY 10606

Bethel Center
Bethel Baptist Church
1 Fisher Court, Second Floor
White Plains, NY  10601

Contact Information:

Early Childhood Administrative Offices
Family Services of Westchester
106 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
(914) 358-5776

Carol Robinson, MS ED, Director of Early Childhood Programs
(914) 358-4703

Danielle Jernigan, MS ED, Education Manager
(914) 358-5561

Hope Shapiro Lilian, MS, LMSW, Family and Community Engagement Manager 
(914) 358-5692

Carmen Guzman, Health Manager
(914) 997-0147, Ext. 18

Maria Pilco, Early Head Start Coordinator
(914) 761-2731, Ext. 14