Who We Are

The Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP (WSA) is proud to have a history that goes back more than 50 years.  That’s fifty years of strong collective advocacy for the children and families farthest from opportunity, high quality professional development, and opportunities for parents, staff and directors to learn from each other and together improve the lives of children and families throughout Washington state.

WSA is a statewide non-profit organization composed of representatives from Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant/Seasonal Head Start, Native American Head Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

We are thousands strong – parents, grandparents, staff, directors, friends, and all the children they help thrive.

What do we do?

Our member programs serve more than 30,000 Washington children and their families every year, and WSA supports their hard work through:

Advocacy:  We partner with parents and programs to advocate for investments in early learning and policies that support families and children farthest from opportunity.

Professional Development:  Early Learning is only as effective as the quality of our staff, programs, and parent leaders.  WSA and its associated training arm, the Washington State Training Consortium (WSTC) provides ongoing and wide-ranging training to help programs maintain a high level of excellence in teaching, program governance, management, and family support services.

Connection and Collaboration:   We are stronger together, and parents, staff and directors learn from each other to better serve children and advocate for families.

Policy Leadership:  WSA staff, board and members are experienced experts in early learning and family services, and serve on multiple state-wide and nation-wide planning groups and advocacy coalitions.  WSA staff, board, directors and parent leaders are frequently called upon to participate in state and federal policy and implementation decisionmaking processes.

Parent Leadership and Empowerment:  The foundation of Head Start and ECEAP are Parents/Caregivers, who serve in governing roles in their local programs and who are the voice of the children and families farthest from opportunity.  WSA is a national leader in strengthening and amplifying those voices with their awarding winning and much-replicated Parent Ambassadors program.

Racial Equity:  More than two thirds of children in ECEAP and Head Start/Early Head Start are non-white, and our programs serve a vital role in closing opportunity gaps so Washington’s BIPOC children can thrive in kindergarten and beyond.  This priority guides all of WSA’s advocacy and training work.


What are Head Start and ECEAP?

Head Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) provide comprehensive high quality preschool, family support and health services to children 0-5 in Washington who are the farthest from opportunity for success in school.

The federally funded Head Start program was created in 1965 during the War on Poverty for local organizations to provide a comprehensive ‘whole child’ school readiness program.  The state funded ECEAP program was created 20 years later to reach the many 3-5 year olds who needed services but could not get into Head Start, which served only half of eligible families.  ECEAP and Head Start provide an intensive combination of education, health and nutrition screening and assistance, parent involvement and family support. Three- and four-year-olds attend high-quality pre-school classes, are screened and immunize for possible health problems that could hinder learning. Family needs are assessed so that families can be referred to community resources, and adults are provided with training to improve their parenting, leadership, and self-sufficiency skills. These programs have been successful in preparing children for school, identifying and addressing health and nutrition issues, and helping parents with parenting, leadership and self-sufficiency skills. Parents are involved both in the classroom and through local parent-run policy councils.

Early Head Start and Early ECEAP serve pregnant women and children 0-3, with comprehensive services in either a center-based or home visiting model.