January OHS HSPPS Webcast Recap

The “Hot Topics” portion of the Office of Head Start (OHS) webcasts on the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) always seem to offer interesting insight into grantees’ questions about the new standards and how OHS plans to address them. In this month’s webcast three areas were addressed during Hot Topics –

  • We were reminded about the new effective date for background check requirements. OHS reiterated that programs should review the Program Instruction and accompanying FAQs for the most up to date information.
  • OHS also clarified a frequently heard question related to programs’ ability to enroll children who are not yet age 3 into Head Start. As stated in the standards (see 1302.12b specifically), children must be 3 years old OR age 3 by the kindergarten cutoff date for their particular state. In other words, children who are not yet 3 years old can enroll if they will be 3 by the kindergarten cutoff date.
  • OHS is receiving lots of questions related to QRIS as well as curricula and staff qualifications. They are working on detailed guidance, and grantees are encouraged to continue to submit questions through ECLKC.

The topic of the January webcast was Health, Safety, and Mental Health. The webcast was packed with information about the new standards, justification for why the standards are the way they are, and links to lots of resources for programs. As a reminder, the webcasts are available on ECLKC. Below, we discuss a few of the highlights from the January webcast.

Suspension and Expulsion. OHS acknowledged they are receiving many questions related to suspension and expulsion, which they reminded us applies to children birth to age 5 (not just Head Start). They noted the standards are not a new practice, as they codify a long-standing practice in Head Start to not expel children. This new section in the HSPPS prohibits expulsion and limits suspension. There is some flexibility with the rule. If a program has explored all options for a child, documented all steps along the way, and determines that the placement is not appropriate then the child can be transitioned to a new (more appropriate) placement through a warm handoff. Alongside the suspension and expulsion requirements the new HSPPS provide steps for programs to take to address challenging behaviors and provides more detailed information on the important practice of engaging mental health consultants in this area.

Mental Health. “Social and emotional well-being” are the buzzwords used in the new HSPPS related to mental health. Mental health, along with health, oral health, and nutrition services are viewed as essential components to support children’s development and school readiness. On the January webcast OHS discussed an important new provision that at enrollment programs must obtain parental consent for mental health consultation services. The goal, in part, was described as helping to normalize mental health services. The importance in helping parents understand (e.g., through training, resources) child mental health – in terms of their social and emotional well-being – was also stressed. The new HSPPS were also strengthened to help ensure that mental health services help staff address challenging behaviors and with classroom management practices. A key to this success is use of mental health consultants, which according to the standards must be licensed or certified mental health professionals. OHS acknowledged that in some communities it might be difficult to find consultants who have experience with young children. To the extent possible, this would be the recommended practice.

Child Nutrition. Again, nutrition is one of the key service areas supporting children’s development and school readiness. In the streamlined standards, one of the new requirements is related to water. Now, programs must make safe drinking water available to children during the day. OHS reminded us that this was not in the previous version of the standards. The Child Nutrition section addresses topics such as how much food should be offered, and it also includes more specific requirements related to breastfeeding support. OHS noted that the breastfeeding standards appear in this section since they are connected directly to infants’ nutritional needs.

Lots of resources! Many resources were highlighted in the January webcast. Grantees were encouraged to refer to Caring for Our Children Basics for basic health and safety guidance, and were also reminded that they may exceed the guidance in Basics as desired or required through other avenues (e.g., state licensing). Resources for program staff, such as the Health Manager’s Orientation Guide, were highlighted, as were resources for families such as the Well-Visit Planner. Additionally, new videos will be coming to the HSPPS Showcase in February. According to OHS we can expect to hear more on the following topics – general structure of the new HSPPS, infants and toddlers, dual language learners, suspension and expulsion, family child care option, and home-based option.

It sounds like more guidance is coming soon from OHS related to certain areas of the new HSPPS and we look forward to sharing that here! As a reminder, there are two more webcasts left in the series on the HSPPS, with the next one scheduled for February 15, 2017. What has your experience been so far with the new HSPPS? Please feel free to be in touch if you have specific needs for assistance. Our experienced, knowledgeable consultants at Foundations for Families would be glad to help!

Thank you.

Contact Us

We have successfully worked with agencies in every round of recompetition to write winning grants, design competitive programs, confirm prudent budgets, and plan for a manageable start-up period.  Contact Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at (703) 599-4329 or augenblick@foundationsforfamilies.com to learn about how we can help.

A New Year – New Performance Standards

2017 has arrived and while the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) compliance dates seem far away, they will be here before we know it. Whether your program jumped in with two feet when new standards were issued or you’ve just recently begun tackling changes, we recommend a having a clear approach to implementation that is written, communicated and routinely revisited. The new year is an opportunity to take a fresh look at how your program will achieve compliance and ensure your management systems support staying in compliance for years to come.

To tackle the new HSPPS you could begin with a facilitated convening of senior staff, a handful of program staff (e.g. teachers, home visitors, ERSEA workers) and parents. If you’re an Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grantee, including your child care partners may also make sense. As a group, walk through the entire set of HSPPS and place them into three categories on flip charts:

Category 1: Standards you are meeting now, for which systems are in place and are currently working. Your most recent self-assessment and/or on-site monitoring review have confirmed compliance and your data systems can produce reports on indicators.

Category 2: Standards you are close to meeting or could meet with minor tweaks, including management systems, to ensure routine compliance.

Category 3: Standards you are not meeting.

Category 2 standards are areas where your program could experience quick wins. Tackling these first will also allow staff, who may be experiencing anxiety about changes, to learn about the new HSPPS and see that your program is already on the right path. Leading staff through change is an important part of success. Assigning content area managers to execute action plans for Category 2 standards under their purview may make the most sense, as the work should be short-term and simpler than your Category 3 standards.

Category 3 represents the biggest hurdle. To start, your group could further put these standards into two buckets:

  • Standards where you have the internal knowledge, skills and time to develop and implement a plan of action for compliance.
  • Standards where you need help; a consultant, an external content expert, and/or additional worker bees to help research and consider options for meeting the standards before you can develop a plan of action.

After you put your Category 3 standards into buckets you can then cluster groups of standards together to avoid addressing them in isolation. The new standards are comprehensive, complementary, build on each other and are supported by a variety of management systems. Next, prioritize the areas of work and set action plans with timelines and assignments (Plan), implement the plans (Do), document implementation and review data to determine areas of improvement or weakness (Study), and implement again with adjustments (Act). Throughout these steps make sure to involve families and staff.

Finally, your program may want to assign a senior grantee staff person to oversee meeting new HSPPS. While deciding how to meet new standards should be inclusive and all program staff are responsible for all HSPPS, one person must keep their eye on the ball. This position could monitor implementation of action plans to ensure deadlines are met, procedures are developed/modified and approved, parents have been involved, data systems are tweaked or created, and staff are held accountable. This position can also identify needed shifts in program resources to support achievement of new HSPPS. Changes in budget will need to be done in coordination with the grantee Finance team, Program Director and Policy Council.

Foundations for Families’ consulting staff have significant experience and expertise advising Head Start and Early Head Start grantees on a range of topics including program design approaches, fiscal planning, management systems and compliance. We work strategically with grantees to understand your needs and collaborate to help you achieve your program goals. Whatever approach you choose to take, there are many steps and moving parts. Welcome 2017 with renewed energy for the new HSPPS and you are bound to be successful!

Thank you.

Contact Us

We have successfully worked with agencies in every round of recompetition to write winning grants, design competitive programs, confirm prudent budgets, and plan for a manageable start-up period.  Contact Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at (703) 599-4329 or augenblick@foundationsforfamilies.com to learn about how we can help.

I would highly recommend the work of Foundations for Families and the value that they bring in terms of knowledge and expertise (both breadth and depth), skillfulness in working with management and staff, and their passion for this work. I would also highly recommend Foundation for Families for those existing or long-standing HS/EHS programs that are looking for ways to improve their Program Management and Fiscal Operations (PMFO).

Dave Kontur, Executive Director

Lucas County Family and Children First Council, Toledo, Ohio

Duration Funds Awarded to 665 HS and EHS Programs

This week we learned the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded roughly $290 million in duration funds to Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) programs. Many HS and EHS programs were funded – 665 in total! The list of Agencies Receiving Funds to Extend Head Start and Early Head Start Duration is available on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC). It has been nearly a year since the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced the availability of duration funds. As you may remember, funding was available to existing grantees that did not serve all of their Head Start children for at least 1,020 hours per year.

This is an important investment in children and families, as duration funds will help to ensure communities are able to offer increased availability of full day full year slots. It is also a step toward helping more programs meet the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), which require that by 2021 most programs are offering full day full school year services. As stated in a January 3, 2017 announcement from ACF –

This supplemental funding allows Head Start programs to choose the models that work best for their communities when designing programs with more total annual hours.  Programs work with parents in deciding to add days at the end of the year, to shorten the summer gap, to add more hours per day or a combination of both.

We look forward to seeing how programs choose to implement their duration funds. Congratulations to all programs that received an award! Foundations for Families’ expert consultants are experienced start up planners, and if we can assist you at all in your journey to increase your program’s service hours please feel free to be in touch.

Thank you.

Contact Us

We have successfully worked with agencies in every round of recompetition to write winning grants, design competitive programs, confirm prudent budgets, and plan for a manageable start-up period.  Contact Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at (703) 599-4329 or augenblick@foundationsforfamilies.com to learn about how we can help.