Head Start Grant Opportunities Expand Successful Birth-to-Five Pilot Initiative

HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced this week 123 funding opportunity announcements for organizations interested in providing Head Start and Early Head Start services.  The announcement is part of an ongoing effort to improve the quality and accountability of Head Start grantees nationwide following new regulations announced by President Obama in 2011 to ensure that all Head Start programs are providing the highest-quality education and services to children and families.

About half of the opportunities will replicate a successful “birth-to-five” pilot initiative that encourages applicants to develop innovative plans to deliver services to children from birth through kindergarten entry in a single application.  These opportunities were selected for the birth-to-five initiative because the current grantee already provides both Head Start and Early Head Start in the same community.

“During the pilot, we found that applicants partnered with other organizations in their communities to truly innovate and develop a comprehensive plan for early education,” said HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families George Sheldon.  “This allows a child to receive a consistent continuum of care and early learning services and allows the grantees flexibility to determine what is best for the children in their community.”

Following a nationwide review, the Office of Head Start notified certain Head Start grantees in January they would be required to apply for continued funding in an open competition with other potential providers in their communities.  These grantees were selected because they did not meet quality thresholds due to licensing problems, fiscal or management problems or deficiencies discovered during an on-site federal monitoring review.  Additionally, for the first time ever, grantees that scored in the bottom ten percent in an on-site classroom quality evaluation, or that did not meet minimum threshold scores on this evaluation, were required to re-apply for future funding.  The classroom quality evaluation measures teachers’ interactions with children, including emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support. 

“Effective teacher interaction is one of the key elements to a high quality program,” said Office of Head Start Director Yvette Sanchez Fuentes.  “There is always room to improve quality, and this competition raises that bar for early childhood education.”

To determine funding awards, applicants will be evaluated by a panel of independent early childhood professionals and assessed by Certified Public Accountants to determine their ability to deliver on Head Start’s goal of providing high-quality early childhood services to the nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. 

Applicants have 90 days to submit their grant proposals online through www.grants.gov.  An applicant support website is available to help organizations with the application process.

For more information on Head Start, please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/.

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