Office of Head Start Designation Renewal System: Frequently Asked Questions


Q: When will the Office of Head Start post the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs)?

A: Funding opportunity announcements will be released in early spring. Interested applicants are encouraged to sign up for email updates from to be notified when the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) are posted. Applicants can visit and click on “Find Grant Opportunities” in the red box on the left and follow the instructions below:

Click on “Subscriptions” at the bottom of the page.
Click on “Notices Based on Advanced Criteria”.
Type in your email address and the CFDA Number “93.600”.
Click “Subscribe to mailing list.”

Q: If both Head Start and Early Head Start grants have been designated for competition in a service area, will FOAs be released for both grants at the same time?

A: Yes. For service areas where both types of grants are subject to competition, two funding opportunity announcements – one for Head Start and one for Early Head Start – will be released at the same time. Information will be included in both funding announcements instructing applicants how to apply for funding under one or both announcements.

Q: Who is eligible to apply for Head Start and Early Head Start funding?

A: The HHS Grants Forecast and the funding opportunity announcement list eligible entities for Head Start and Early Head Start funding. Public or private non-profit organizations, including community-based and faith-based organizations, or for-profit agencies within a community that wish to compete for funds, are eligible to apply for Head Start funding. The same categories of organizations are eligible to apply for Early Head Start, except that applicants need not be from the community they will be serving. Entities that, within the last five years, have either: a) been terminated from the Head Start or Early Head Start program for cause, or b) had a “denial of refunding” under 45 C.F.R. §1303.15 by the Office of Head Start are not eligible for funding. Grantees that have been required to compete by the Designation Renewal System are eligible to apply.

Q: When will applications be due?

A: Each funding opportunity announcement will include a due date of not less than 60 days from the posting date of that FOA. Applications must be submitted electronically, received, and validated through the system by the due date and time to be considered in the competitive process.

Q: Will current grantees that have been designated for competition be automatically disadvantaged under the evaluation criteria based on having a past deficiency?

A: We do not intend to include any provisions in the evaluation criteria in the funding opportunity announcement that would provide for an automatic deduction of points for current grantees either for having past deficiencies or for being designated for competition. We intend to request that grantees submit their three most recent OHS monitoring reports and this information will be considered by reviewers.

Q: In my service area, the HHS Grants Forecast indicates an “estimated number of awards” that is higher than the current number of grantees in the area. Is there a preference for smaller grantees and will all large grantees be split into smaller grants?

A: The HHS Grants Forecast format allows OHS to enter only a single number for the estimated number of awards. The number represents a range of awards OHS may make as a result of the competition. For example, if six (6) is listed under “estimated number of awards,” OHS may award one to six awards. ACF also has authority to award more than the number listed as the estimated number of awards. OHS does not intend to provide a preference for organizations applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant based on the size of the program the organization proposes to serve.

Q: What happens if there is only one applicant in a given service area? Will they automatically get the grant?

A: In accordance with HHS Grants Policy, all eligible applications will be evaluated based on the criteria established in the funding opportunity announcement. Only fundable applications, as evaluated by a panel of non-Federal reviewers, will be considered for a Federal award.

Q: Is it permissible for an applicant to require another entity or individual to agree not to compete for a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grant as a condition of being named as one of the applicant’s delegate agencies?

A: In the interest of ensuring a robust competition for high-quality, comprehensive early education providers, OHS believes that applicants should not dissuade other entities from applying for Head Start and/or Early Head Start grants. Therefore we intend to award bonus points in the evaluation criteria in the funding opportunity announcement for applicants who attest that they do not have a non-compete agreement in place at the timethe application is submitted that in any way restricts or disadvantages another entity’s ability to apply for a Head Start grant on its own behalf.

Q: Who will review the grant applications?

A: HHS grants policy requires that a panel of independent, non-Federal reviewers evaluate applications for competitive discretionary grants.

The reviewer panel will consist of individuals with expertise in early childhood development; family support services; education or a related field; and fiscal and organizational operations.

The scores from the reviewer panel are one factor, but not the only factor, in making an award decision. ACF may elect not to fund applicants with management or financial problems that would indicate an inability to successfully complete the proposed project. Furthermore, applications may be funded in whole or in part. Successful applicants may be funded at an amount lower than that requested. ACF also reserves the right to consider preferences to fund organizations serving emerging, un-served, or under-served populations, including those populations located in pockets of poverty. ACF will also consider the geographic distribution of Federal funds in its award decisions. ACF may refuse funding for projects with what it regards as unreasonably high start-up costs for facilities or equipment, or for projects with unreasonably high operating costs. The Administration on Children and Families is ultimately responsible for making the funding decisions.

Q: What are the projected dates of award?

A: OHS expects to complete the panel review of all eligible applications by October 2012. Awards as a result of the competitive process will be made subsequent to this date.

Q: If a Head Start or Early Head Start grant is awarded to a new grantee in the middle of a program year, how will the transition be handled?

A: OHS will consider temporary extensions of current grants to facilitate a constructive transition. In considering whether to extend a grant, OHS will consider a number of factors including, but not limited to: the risk of service disruption for the children and families currently served by Head Start; the geographical location of services in the current grant and the new grant; the degree to which staff and teachers will be changing under the new grantee; and the grant end date for the current grantee.

Q: Suppose an entity applies as the grantee and proposes to work with a number of organizations as delegates, including some organizations that need to improve the quality of the early education services they currently provide. Can the applicant include in the application a discussion of the strengths and challenges of the proposed delegates and the steps the lead agency is proposing to take to improve the quality of the services provided by the delegate agencies?

A: In the interests of ensuring competition effectively raises the level of quality for all children enrolled in Head Start, applications should demonstrated an entity’s ability to provide high-quality, comprehensive early education.

Organizations may decide, at their own discretion, to expand their efforts, including by working with other organizations that will serve as delegates, and that may benefit from the lead agency’s efforts to support higher quality early education services. In such cases, the applicant should explicitly describe the partnership and agreement among the proposed agencies; discuss the applicant’s intentions for quality improvement for the delegate(s) where the applicant considers this is needed, and the steps the applicant will take to improve those aspects of the program(s) that are identified for quality improvements.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

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