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Frequently Asked Questions: Head Start State Collaboration Project

What is Head Start? What are the benefits of this program? How can I enroll my child? We've compiled a FAQ file that answers the questions that are most frequently asked about Head Start Programs. If you don't find the answers to your questions here, contact the Head Start office nearest you.

Q. What is the definition of income?

A. Income means total cash receipts before taxes from all sources, with the exceptions noted below. Income includes money wages or salary before deductions; net income from nonfarm self-employment; net income from farm self-employment; regular payments from Social Security or railroad retirement; payments from unemployment compensation, strike benefits from union funds, worker's compensation, veterans benefits (with the exception noted below), public assistance (including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Emergency Assistance money payments, and nonFederally funded General Assistance or General Relief money payments); training stipends; alimony, child support, and military family allotments or other regular support from an absent family member or someone not living in the household; private pensions, government employee pensions (including military retirement pay), and regular insurance or annuity payments; college or university scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantships; and dividends, interest, net rental income, net royalties, and periodic receipts from estates or trusts; and net gambling or lottery winnings.

As defined here, income does not include capital gains; any assets drawn down as withdrawals from a bank, the sale of property, a house or a car; or tax refunds, gifts, loans, lump-sum inheritances, one-time insurance payments, or compensation for injury. Also excluded are noncash benefits, such as the employer-paid or union-paid portion of health insurance or other employee fringe benefits; food or housing received in lieu of wages; the value of food and fuel produced and consumed on farms; the imputed value of rent from owner-occupied nonfarm or farm housing; and such Federal non-cash benefit programs as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches, and housing assistance.

The period of time to be considered for eligibility is the twelve months immediately preceding the month in which application or reapplication for enrollment of a child in a Head Start program is made, or for the calendar year immediately preceding the calendar year in which the application or reapplication is made, whichever more accurately reflects the family's current needs.

Q. What are the Family Income Guidelines?

A. Children are eligible to participate in Head Start if they are from low-income families or if their families are eligible for public assistance. The Head Start Act establishes income eligibility for participation in Head Start programs based on the poverty guidelines updated annually in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

2005 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia.

Family Unit sizePoverty Guideline
1 $9,570
2 $12,830
3 $16,090
4 $19,350
5 $22,610
6 $25,870
7 $29,130
8 $32,390

For family units with more than 8 members, add $3,260 for each additional member. (The same increment applies to smaller family sizes also, as can be seen in the figures above.)

Q. What is the definition of a "family", "family unit", or "household"?

A. There is no universal administrative definition of "family," "family unit," or "household" that is valid for all programs that use the poverty guidelines. Federal programs in some cases use administrative definitions that differ somewhat from the statistical definitions given below; the Federal office which administers a program has the responsibility for making decisions about its administrative definitions.

The following statistical definitions are made available for illustrative purposes only; in other words, these statistical definitions are not binding for administrative purposes.

  • Family - A family is a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption who live together; all such related persons are considered as members of one family. For instance, if an older married couple, their daughter and her husband and two children, and the older couple's nephew all lived in the same house or apartment, they would all be considered members of a single family.
  • Unrelated Individual - An unrelated individual is a person 15 years old or over (other than an inmate of an institution) who is not living with any relatives. An unrelated individual may be the only person living in a house or apartment, or may be living in a house or apartment(or in group quarters such as a rooming house) in which one or more persons also live who are not related to the individual in question by birth, marriage, or adoption.
  • Household - A household consists of all the persons who occupy a housing unit (house or apartment), whether they are related to each other or not. If a family and an unrelated individual, or two unrelated individuals, are living in the same housing unit, they would constitute two family units, but only one household.
  • Family unit - As used here, either an unrelated individual or a family (as defined above) constitutes a family unit. In other words, a family unit of size one is an unrelated individual, while a family unit of two/three/etc. is the same as a family of two/three/etc.

 

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