Head Start annual reporting is established in Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), Section §1302.102(d)(2), and requires programs to include a summary of a program’s most recent community assessment. The report must also comply with the Head Start Act. In this blog post, we’ll explore the intersection of HSPPS and the Act and how your program can use the annual report as an opportunity to show need across the service area and within your program.

The Head Start Act –  Section 644(a)(2) – is more prescriptive than HSPPS about what is required in a program’s annual report. For each most recently concluded fiscal year, programs must report information about (A) funding, (B) budget, (C) children and families served, (D) federal reviews and audits, (E) health services, (F) parent involvement, (G) preparing children for kindergarten, and (H) other relevant information. Today, we’ll focus in on (C) The total number of children and families served, the average monthly enrollment (as a percentage of funded enrollment), and the percentage of eligible children served.

The first two parts of this requirement, total number of children and families served and average monthly enrollment (as a percentage of funded enrollment), are data points that come from your program’s regular enrollment monitoring. There is little wiggle room in interpretation of what is required for these two points. You should include your end of fiscal year numbers in the annual report.

The requirement to report percentage of eligible children served provides a chance to think creatively about the presentation of data from your community assessment and program enrollment. Some programs report this information as enrollment by eligibility category and as a percent of total program enrollment.

Example, Part 1: A program served 100 children during the fiscal year. 75 of these children were income-eligible. Therefore, 75% of total enrollment was income-eligible children (calculated by dividing 75 income-eligible children served by 100 total children served). 5 out of the 100 children served were experiencing homelessness; 5% of total program enrollment was children experiencing homelessness, and so on.

Let’s look at how we can layer community assessment data on top of the data about children served. HSPPS 1302.11 Determining community strengths, needs, and resources requires programs to report the number of eligible infants, toddlers, preschool age children, and expectant mothers in their service area. Since this is one of the big “buckets” of community assessment, we recommend highlighting this data in your annual report.

In your annual report, consider reporting not only program enrollment by eligibility category and as a percentage of total program enrollment (Example, Part 1), but also the number of children you are serving as a percent of total eligible children in the service area.

Example, Part 2: A program’s community assessment identified 1,800 income-eligible children birth to age 5 in the service. As we found in Example, Part 1, the program served 75 income-eligible children (based on primary eligibility), or 75% of total program enrollment. When layering on the community assessment data you can also report that the 75 income-eligible children served represent 4.2% of total income eligible children in the service area (calculated by dividing 75 children served by 1,800 income-eligible).

This approach helps to show the depth of need within the service area and also highlights the critical role of the Head Start program. When you bring program data together with community data, you are meeting the annual report requirements of HSPPS and the Head Start Act. You are also helping to build a story of need in your community.

With the recently released 2016-2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates you can leverage Census data for your community assessment – and thus your annual report – to describe numbers of eligible children. Census data is particularly useful for identifying the numbers of income-eligible children and children living in families that receive public assistance.

Data is an important tool for defining need, serving children and families, and reporting successes and challenges. If your program needs assistance with data gathering to conduct a community assessment, or help preparing an annual report, please reach out. We would be glad to talk with you and learn more about your program’s needs.

Thank you.

Thank you for reading our blog. We encourage you to use our blog posts for thought, integration, and sharing. When using or sharing content from blog posts, please attribute the original content to Foundations for Families.

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