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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The Department of Health and Human Services is the U.S. government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. The department includes more than 300 programs, covering a wide spectrum of activities. Some highlights that relate to child care, school-age care, and teen out-of-school programs include:

  • Medical and social science research.
  • Preventing outbreak of infectious disease, including immunization services.
  • Ensuring food and drug safety.
  • Medicare (health insurance for elderly and disabled Americans) and Medicaid (health insurance for low-income people).
  • Financial assistance and services for low-income families.
  • Improving maternal and infant health.
  • Head Start (preschool education and services).
  • Child Care Bureau, administering state child care programs.
  • Preventing child abuse and domestic violence.
  • Substance abuse treatment and prevention.

HHS is the largest grant-making agency in the federal government, providing some 60,000 grants per year. HHS' Medicare program is the nation's largest health insurer, handling more than 900 million claims per year. HHS works closely with state, local, and tribal governments. Many HHS-funded services are provided at the local level by state, county, or tribal agencies or through private sector grantees. HHS's programs are administered by 11 operating divisions, including 8 agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and 3 human services agencies. In addition to the services they deliver, the HHS programs provide for equitable treatment of beneficiaries nationwide, and they enable the collection of national health and other data.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a federal agency within HHS that funds state, territorial, local, and tribal organizations to provide family assistance (welfare), child support, child care, Head Start, child welfare, and other programs relating to children and families. Actual services are provided by state, county, city, and tribal governments and by public and private local agencies. ACF assists these organizations through funding, policy direction, and information services.

The ACF is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. Their programs achieve the following:

  • Families and individuals are empowered to increase their own economic independence and productivity.
  • Strong, healthy supportive communities have a positive impact on the quality of life and the development of children.
  • Partnerships with individuals, front-line service providers, communities, American Indian tribes, native communities, states, and Congress bring about solutions that transcend traditional agency boundaries.
  • Services are planned, reformed, and integrated to improve needed access.
  • There is commitment to working with people with developmental disabilities, refugees, and migrants to address their needs, strengths, and abilities.

NIFA partners with the Child Care Bureau, Head Start Bureau, and Family and Youth Services Bureau on a variety of issues. NIFA and Cooperative Extension Services provide information to the Child Care Information Center . NIFA staff presents plenary sessions, individual workshops, and exhibits at the annual meetings of state child care administrators. NIFA staff serve as proposal reviewers and work with the research staff in developing national research questions to be funded. NIFA also serves as a liaison between Land-Grant University System staff and HHS agencies by providing opportunities for dialog and presentation.


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