Five Year Grant Periods – Head Start


The Office of Head Start (OHS) is moving from indefinite project periods to five year project periods for all Head Start grantees. This requires changes in OHS funding practices and oversight of Head Start programs. The main purpose of improved oversight is to demonstrate the quality of program services, the effectiveness of management systems, and the achievement of outcomes for children, families, and communities.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

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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

Appeal Procedures for Head Start Grantees and Current or Prospective Delegate Agencies

Summary: Section 646 of the Head Start Act requires the Secretary to prescribe a timeline for conducting administrative hearings when adverse actions are taken or proposed against Head Start or Early Head Start grantees or delegate agencies. The Office of Head Start is proposing to renew without changes this rule which implements these requirements and which prescribe when a grantee must submit information and what that information should include to support a contention that adverse action should not be taken.

Action Date: Consideration will be given to comments and suggestions submitted within 60 days of this publication.

Contact: Copies of the proposed collection of information can be obtained and comments may be forwarded by writing to the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Information Services, 370 L’Enfant Promenade SW., Washington, DC 20447, Attn: ACF Reports Clearance Officer. All requests should be identified by the title of the information collection.

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New Head Start Rules Creating Uncertainties for Providers – Early Years – Education Week


In the coming weeks, the federal Office of Head Start expects to put out its first-ever official request for agencies to compete for funding to provide preschool services to poor children.

It’s a sea change in the Head Start world, where in most communities, the same nonprofit, school district, or other local public agency has long held a virtual monopoly on the federal dollars that pay for early childhood education for some of the most vulnerable kids. Today, I have a story on that spells out some of the anxieties among the agencies and providers that must now prove they can meet new rules for quality in order to retain some or all of their funding. There are 132 of these agencies—including the two largest providers of Head Start services in New York City and Los Angeles—that will have to recompete to continue their funding this year.

Source: Education Week

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Grant Reviewer Information – Head Start


The grant application review process relies on qualified, non-Federal reviewers who can critically evaluate applications for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Grant reviewers will work in an online environment. They will serve on a four-person panel to review and evaluate applications consistent with established criteria. Each reviewer’s objective comments will be collected in an online review system and submitted to a panel chair for discussion via conference call. Because of compressed deadlines, reviewers must complete an intense review process—reading up to 3,000 pages per week—to stay on schedule.


Applicants must demonstrate expertise and experience in early childhood education and family support services or related fields. Applicants are also needed with expertise in fiscal and organizational operations. All applicants must demonstrate abilities in the following areas:

  • Strong communication skills: fluent English writing, listening, and speaking skills
  • Analytical/critical thinking skills: provide thoughtful and objective evaluations based on established criteria
  • Organizational and time management skills to adhere to deadlines
  • Self-motivated and self-reliant to work effectively in a virtual environment
  • Ability to collaborate in a virtual team environment, including across different time zones
  • Familiar with diverse populations who might reflect the Head Start community

For reviews requiring bilingual skills: abilities listed above, plus strong communication skills in Spanish

OHS is committed to recruiting reviewers who represent diversity of race or national origin. Individuals who have served on Head Start monitoring reviews or on panels for the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Education grants are encouraged to apply. Familiarity with Head Start and/or previous experience as a grant reviewer are useful, but not required. Head Start or Early Head Start grantee staff and current T/TA providers are not eligible to apply. Two professional references must be provided.


Availability: Reviewers must commit to a minimum of four weeks four one-week panels between late Spring 2012 and Fall 2012. An additional commitment beyond the minimum four weeks is encouraged. Panels run during a six-day work week, beginning Saturdays and ending Thursdays. During the review process, it is critical that reviewers not have additional professional commitments. Reviewers must be available during core business hours 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST and be flexible given possible time zone differences among panel members. Reviewers are expected not to travel or participate in other grant reviews during scheduled review dates. To avoid burnout, any two consecutive weeks of paneling will be followed by one week off.

Training: Reviewers will be invited to a 2 ½ day orientation in Spring 2012 in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area to learn about the grant review process. Training will cover established evaluation criteria, panel review procedures, and offer “hands on” simulations. Tools:

  • Telephone line and computer with reliable Internet access via broadband or DSL
  • Familiar with Windows-based interface
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 9
  • Back-up plan to access the Internet in the event the primary Internet connection is lost during a review. A connection must be re-established within three hours.

Outcomes: Each reviewer must provide thoughtful, objective, and timely written reviews for each assigned application.

COMPENSATION: $350 per day while serving on a panel



Create a profile and complete the online application at: Include the reference code: OHS-001-2012. Select the appropriate Job Code for the Office of Head Start, located at the bottom of the Job Codes page.We encourage you to share this information with qualified colleagues who may also be interested in serving as grant reviewers.

For further information contact:Call Center 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST | Phone: 1.866.796.1613 | Email:

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

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Grantees Required to Compete for Continued Funding (45 C.F.R. § 1307, “Policies and Procedures for Designation Renewal of Head Start and Early Head Start Grantees”)

This is a list of the 130 programs across the country who will be competing for continued funding to run their EHS or HS programs.

Source: Office of Head Start

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HHS continues Head Start quality push, notifies grantees selected to compete for continued funding


Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified 132 Head Start grantees that they have been designated to compete for continued Head Start funding. Under new regulations announced by President Barack Obama in November 2011, grantees who do not meet quality thresholds established by the Office of Head Start will have to compete, for the first time ever, with other potential providers for Head Start funding.

“This administration is fully committed to ensuring that our Head Start children and families receive the highest quality services from the most capable organizations,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are holding programs to high standards for classroom quality and program integrity and today’s announcement sends a strong message that the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

Source: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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