Early Childhood Education

Our Early Childhood Education programs strive to provide all children with a safe, nurturing, engaging, enjoyable, and secure learning environment. This helps help them gain the awareness, skills, and the confidence necessary to succeed in their present environment, and to deal with later responsibilities in school and in life. Each child is treated as an individual in an inclusive community that values, respects, and responds to diversity.

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.  Head Start programs provide a learning environment that supports children's growth in language & literacy, cognition & general knowledge, physical development & health, social & emotional development, and approaches to learning.

Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to enrolled children and their families, which include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services. Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. Head Start emphasizes the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher.

All early childhood education programs are licensed by the State of Maine and staffed by credentialed professionals.

Head Start

Head Start is a program that provides all children with a safe nurturing enviornment while supporting parents while they identify and meet their own goals and nurture the development of their children.  Head Start sites are located throughout Cumberland County.  Head Start is part/day part/year.  Free program to qualifying families. View the 2017-18 Head Start Annual Report here.

In September, we will have openings in all centers:




  • East End 
  • Kennedy Park (morning and afternoon sessions)
  • Parkside 
  • Riverton 



South Portland


Want to enroll your child in a program or be placed on Centers' wait lists?


Public PreK Partnerships

Head Start partners with the Public School System. Head Start and Department of Education funds are used to deliver this model.  In these classrooms, transportation is provided by the school districts.  To be eligible for these programs children must be 4 years of age and live in the identified school district.  This is a also a free program, income and family size is considered, however there are some slots available with no regard to income.  Current partnerships are with Portland and Westbrook school districts.

Early Head Start

Early Head Start is a family visiting program for income eligible families in Cumberland County. The program is offered at no cost to the families. "Parent Partners" make weekly home visits to pregnant mothers, and children age 0-3 and their families. The primary purpose is to build a healthy parent-child relationship. Components of the program include education and child development opportunities, social services referrals, and guidance and referrals for health, mental health, and nutrition concerns.  The program also offers group gatherings twice a month where you can meet other parents of young children. 

At our Portland - Parkside center, we offer a combination program that includes both classroom and home visiting.   

Child Care

The East End center in Portland accepts child care subsidies.  We serve children 6 weeks to 5 years old.  

CDA Development Center

The CDA Development Center offers certified training for the Child Development Associate Credential. The CDA Credential is recognized nationally as the quality standard for training of professional early childhood educators and is the first step on the career ladder.  CDA training helps teachers work effectively with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families in either a center-based or family childcare setting. More information here.

Nutrition Services

Our Nutrition programs aim to promote child and family wellness by providing nutrition services that supplement and compliment those of the home and community. Nutrition services assist families in meeting nutritional needs and in establishing good eating habits that nurture healthy development and promote life long well being.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

The Opportunity Alliance administers the federal WIC program.  WIC is a nutritional education program which provides supplemental foods to promote good health for pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5. (Fathers cannot receive direct benefits but are encouraged to apply on behalf of their young children.) WIC services are free to families living in Cumberland County and who meet liberal income guidelines.

The program provides the following benefits:

Monthly food checks for women to buy foods that are important to their health during pregnancy and for the 6 months following the birth of their child, and for young children up to age 5. Foods include peanut butter, eggs, milk, cheese, dried beans, tuna, and vegetables. Many local grocery stores and the Portland Farmer's Market participate in the WIC program.

Breastfeeding encouragement and support and, for those who can't or choose not to breastfeed, WIC offers infant formula.  Education on nutrition, food shopping, and meal preparation, and referrals to other health care and social service providers as needed.  Prenatal education and participation in the food program, which reduces the chances of the low-birth-weight baby and increases the likelihood that the baby will be robust and healthy.  Regular monitoring of children's growth and development.

Summer Food Service Program

We are a sponsor agency in the Greater Portland area for the USDA Summer Food Service Program. We are now offering breakfast and lunch weekdays to children in our communities throughout Cumberland County. We collaborate with numerous community partners and volunteers to ensure that meals are available for children during summer vacation. Days and times open vary by site. For a list of sites in near you, click here. Click on the individual site listing for more details.  

Kids Katering

Kids Katering provides quality, nutritous affordable and accessible meals to children and seniors.