This year, the Administration for Children and Families is celebrating 25 years of providing family-centered services to pregnant women, infants, and toddlers through the Early Head Start program --#EHS25. As we celebrate this milestone, we are excited to highlight a new project examining how and why Head Start grantees shift funding from services for Head Start preschool-age children to Early Head Start services for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers (i.e., convert enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start). This project will be conducted in partnership with the Urban Institute and MEF Associates.
Grantees may have different motivations or rationales for converting enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start. Many states and localities have increased their funding of public pre-K and may now be able to serve children currently or previously served by Head Start in pre-K programs. Alternatively, Head Start grantees may find that the needs of the communities they serve have changed and may converts slots in response to a limited supply of infant and toddler care in the community or challenges maintaining full enrollment in their preschool programs.
Converting enrollment slots necessitates strategic planning and the careful development and implementation of new processes to ensure high quality service delivery tailored to the unique needs of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers and delivered in accordance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Head Start and Early Head Start programs have some distinct requirements and must engage in distinct activities given key differences in the services they provide and the populations they serve. For example, Early Head Start programs must:
- Recruit and hire qualified staff who have the experience, competencies, and relevant education to serve expectant families, infants, and toddlers
- Provide ongoing supports, training, and professional development to staff working with expectant families, infants, and toddlers
- Provide developmentally aligned supplies, curricula, programming, equipment, and materials in appropriate facilities
- Maintain smaller staff-child ratios and group size maximums than Head Start center-based programs
For this new project, we hope to learn about how Head Start grantees prepare for and engage in enrollment conversions and identify facilitators and barriers to the provision of high quality Early Head Start services that meet community needs.
In particular, this project aims to address research questions, such as:
- How and why do grantees prepare for and convert enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start?
- How do grantees leverage data to support the enrollment conversion process and assess community need?
- What are the characteristics and features of grantees that convert enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start?
- What are grantees’ rationales and/or motivations for converting enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start?
- How do grantees determine if and how they are meeting community needs?
- What are the facilitators and barriers to conversion of enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start?
- What are the facilitators and barriers to high quality service delivery after conversion of enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start?
We are also interested in understanding how answers to the above questions may vary based upon factors such as:
- History or experience implementing Early Head Start
- The proportion of enrollment slots or classrooms undergoing conversion to Early Head Start
- Community characteristics and need (e.g., enrollment supply and/or demand, availability of public pre-K or other early care and education programs)
- Program characteristics (e.g., program option(s) offered, organizational capacity, program size, or characteristics of children and families served)
Ultimately, we hope this new project will build the knowledge base around the conversion of enrollment slots from Head Start to Early Head Start and provide useful information to our partners in the Office of Head Start as well as to other key stakeholders.