Head Start annual reporting is established in Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), Section §1302.102(d)(2), and is required in the Head Start Act, Section 644(a)(2). To fully address requirements, programs must include a summary of their most recent community assessment in the annual report. Including a summary of the community assessment provides an opportunity to highlight community needs and also offers a chance to provide important context related to other required areas of annual reporting.

According to the Head Start Act, programs are required to describe in their annual report “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.” Last spring, we described the value in reporting not only program enrollment by eligibility category and as a percentage of total program enrollment but also the number of children you are serving as a percent of total eligible children in the service area. This approach helps to show the depth of need within the service area and also highlights the critical role of the Head Start program.

What if your program is experiencing challenges with enrollment or is participating in the Full Enrollment Initiative? To comply with annual reporting requirements, it will be necessary to describe average monthly enrollment as a percentage of funded enrollment. You should include your end of fiscal year numbers in the annual report. We encourage you to also think about how community assessment highlights can be woven around enrollment information to provide context.

For many programs, underenrollment has been exacerbated by an unprecedented child care staffing crisis. And now, there is data that shows the impact; this is data that may be included in a program’s community assessment and can be highlighted in the annual report to help explain enrollment numbers.

There is national and state data related to staffing shortages, and you might even find local data or news stories that speak to this issue. An example of a state-level resource is NAEYC’s State Survey Briefs. These briefs were released in December 2022 and address three primary areas: stabilization grants, staffing and supply, and ECE workforce well-being. As reported by NAEYC, nationally, approximately 45% of child care programs experiencing a staffing shortage are serving fewer children. Rates are even higher in some parts of the county; for example, in Nebraska the rate is 57% and in Maine the rate is 61%. Not having enough staff is one of the most common reasons that programs are under-enrolled. What does this look like in your state?

When preparing your program’s annual report, highlight the most relevant information from the community assessment. By bringing program data together with community data, you are meeting the annual report requirements of HSPPS and the Head Start Act. You are also providing information that puts program data (e.g., enrollment) into the context of what is happening in your state and in the child care sector.

Program and community data are important tools 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.

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