HSSCO: Head Start State Collaboration Office

Building and Bridging Systems in Early Care and Education

Who Are We?

Head Start-State Collaboration Offices [HSSCO or SCO] are charged with consulting broadly among early care and education systems at the federal, state, and local level. The state Head Start Association is encouraged to be engaged to support and inform state early childhood policies, plans, and processes.

Since Head Start began in 1965, the field of early childhood has grown as the needs of young children and families have also grown. Systems to develop quality programs ultimately support young children in learning and in life. To support these early childhood systems, the federal Head Start offices implemented Collaboration Projects in 1990. Nebraska was one of the first 12 states to pilot a Project and by 1998 all 50 states and two provinces had established State Collaboration Offices. Each governor designates the location of the “HSSCO” within state government or other statewide entity.

Why Do We Exist?


Help build early childhood systems and access to comprehensive services and support for all low income children;

Encourage widespread collaboration between Head Start and other appropriate programs, services and initiatives and augment Head Start’s capacity to be a partner in State initiatives on behalf of children and their families;

Facilitate the involvement of Head Start in State Policies, plans processes and decisions affecting the Head Start target population and other low-income families.

What Do We Do?


In addition to the federal purposes, federal Head Start legislation now requires Collaboration Offices to serve as a resource to local Head Start agencies in their coordination and collaborative efforts. Stronger linkages at the local level can support improvement and quality of early childhood services. Additionally, Collaboration Offices are required to conduct an annual needs assessment to analyze and address these local agency collaboration and coordination needs.

2022 Nebraska HSSCO Needs Assessment Summary

The other primary change in the Act [Public Law 110-134], Improving Head Start for School Readiness, Dec. 12, 2007] is a new requirement for the governor of each State “to establish or designate an early childhood education and care advisory council to address issues of collaboration, coordination, alignment, quality and availability of early care and education services.” The body designated by Nebraska’s governor is the existing Early Childhood Interagency Coordinating Council [ECICC]. The HSSCO director is an appointed member of and reports to this Council.

While Collaboration Offices are now directing more activities to the local Head Start agency, we continue to address the comprehensive early care and education systems issues. We know that changing systems through authentic collaboration takes time and requires intense and intentional dialogue. Our vision is that the face of every young child and their family remain at the center of that dialogue to focus our energy and resources to support and strengthen positive change in early care and education.



  1. Collaborate with state systems to align early care and education services and supports for children and families prenatally to age 5.
  2. Work with state efforts to collect and use data on early childhood programs to guide decision-making and improve child and family outcomes.
  3. Support the expansion of and access to high-quality workforce and career development opportunities for staff.
  4. Coordinate with school systems to ensure continuity and alignment across programs, as appropriate.

Where Are We? How to Find Us

Collaboration Offices can be found in human services agencies, child care resource and referral agencies, public universities, departments of education, governor’s policy research offices, etc. Regardless of the “where,” all Collaboration Offices are charged to assist states in the development of collaborative early childhood initiatives and mechanisms to link Head Start programs with state systems and efforts on behalf of all children and families living in poverty or economic disadvantage.

The Nebraska Head Start-State Collaboration Office is housed in the Office of Early Childhood at the Nebraska Department of Education.

For additional information, contact Steph Knust, Head Start Early Childhood Systems Director at the Nebraska Department of Education, at steph.knust@nebraska.gov; or by phone 531-207-9832.

Updated October 11, 2023 11:27am