top of page

Tribal Leader Resources

Welcome Tribal Leader! In your role as part of the governing body, you are expected to provide leadership to the program as a whole, as well as to Head Start staff and parent leaders. The governing body assumes legal and fiscal responsibility for Head Start and the safeguarding of federal funds. To help you navigate all of these requirements, NIHSDA has created a list of Tribal Leader Resources. The information and links below are designed to provide you with important and basic information to help you get a quick overview of expectations as a member of your Head Start/Early Head Start Governing Body.


You can find much more in-depth information on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website. The ECLKC (pronounced “e-click”) is the official communication channel for Head Start and Early Head Start grantees, TA network, regional offices, Head Start parents and families, OHS consultants, and anyone else involved with Head Start. There you will find the latest information on OHS priorities, policies, and programs. The ECLKC also offers tips and promising practices on many early childhood topics including child development, education, and health. 


NIHSDA is here to support you in your role as a member of your Head Start/Early Head Start Governing Body. We are the only national organization which represents American Indian and Alaska Native HS/EHS programs exclusively, and our goal is for every AIAN program to be successful. 



Head Start Act - The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-134) authorizes Head Start funds at specific levels and outlines how they will be allocated. The Act outlines the intent of Congress for the program; types of services offered; population served; and reporting, evaluation, and administrative requirements.


Head Start Program Performance Standards - The Head Start Program Performance Standards (45 CFR 1301–1311) outline the mandatory regulations that grantees and delegate agencies must implement to operate a Head Start or Early Head Start program. The Performance Standards define the objectives and features of a quality program and provide a structure for monitoring and enforcing quality standards.


Tribal Specific Language - NIHSDA has been successful in getting Congress and OHS to incorporate many pro-Indian provisions into the legislation. When the Head Start Act was reauthorized in 2007 there were 32 specific AIAN references including language on Designation Renewal System for Tribal Head Start.  The Head Start Performance Standards includes over 30 specific standards related specific to the operation of Tribal programs.


Structure of HHS/ACF/OHS

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a Cabinet-level government department that provides health and human services and promotes research in social services, medicine, and public health. It achieves this through 11 agencies that manage more than 100 programs.  

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a division of the Department of Health & Human Services. They promote the economic and social well-being of children, families, individuals and communities with leadership and resources for compassionate, effective delivery of human services.

The Office of Head Start (OHS) administers grant funding and oversight to the agencies that provide Head Start services in communities across the country. OHS also provides federal policy direction and a training and technical assistance (T/TA) system to help grantees in providing comprehensive services to eligible young children and their families.  OHS has 12 Regional Offices that support the administration of grants, oversight, and T/TA for individual grantee agencies. These offices are located in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. The Regional Offices for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs are located in Washington, DC.

Head Start Leadership

Program Governance - The Head Start Program Governance system is the foundation of an organization and arguably one of its most critical entities. The Program Governance system entails composing a governing body/Tribal Council according to Head Start mandate, establishing a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the three entities within the system (governing body, Policy Council and management staff), and continuously strengthening the Program Governance system in order to achieve desired outcomes for children and families in the communities served.

School Readiness - School readiness includes the readiness of the individual child, the school’s readiness for children, and the ability of the family and community to support optimal early child development. 


AIAN Head Start is the most important and successful federal program focused on the dire circumstances many native children face, principally by addressing health, education, family, and community needs in a holistic manner that is akin to traditional native learning styles and cultural practices. AIAN Head Start is also on the frontline in the preservation of native language and culture, which have been proven to be key elements in native student confidence and success in later years.

Advocacy – NIHSDA is dedicated to the issues that affect American Indian Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start. For NIHSDA, one of our primary objectives is to advocate on behalf of all AIAN Head Start and Early Head Start programs to improve the lives of children and families by influencing legislators’ and policymakers’ opinions and activities, especially for desirable funding or regulations.

Tribal Consultations - The Office of Head Start (OHS) must conduct annual consultations with tribal governments operating HS programs. The purpose of the consultations is to find ways to meet the needs of AIAN children and families. View past consultation reports here.


NIHSDA is the nation’s leading voice for American Indian Alaska Native Head Start programs. The areas in which the association focuses its work include: advocating for federal legislative and regulatory improvements so that early childhood development and education services are culturally appropriate and relevant; as well as providing management training opportunities for program directors and management staff of HS/EHS programs to build the leadership capacity of local programs. NIHSDA is the only national organization which represents AIAN Head Start and Early Head Start programs exclusively. 


bottom of page