Developing or updating policies and procedures is an important activity for any Head Start/Early Head Start program. An intentional and regular focus on maintaining high-quality policies and procedures is also a core component of DRS risk mitigation. In this blog post, we explore why a focus on policies and procedures is important, provide examples, and offer tips for success in this area.

Why is it essential to maintain up-to-date policies and procedures?

Policies and procedures are the foundation of a comprehensive management system, required in Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). They are also essential to the day-to-day operation of a program. Policies and procedures provide information to staff members about how to be in compliance with HSPPS. A program’s policies and procedures manual should be a living, usable tool, updated regularly.

A proactive approach to identifying a need for new policies, or updating an existing policy, may help to prevent programs from receiving a DRS designation. When you have current, detailed, policies and procedures in place that are implemented and monitored, it is less likely for an area to be found out of compliance or deficient. Don’t wait for DRS to make updates to policies or procedures that lack detail and clarity. Creating high-quality, comprehensive policies and procedures is key to effective program operations.

What is an example of how having current, detailed policies and procedures is important?

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on ERSEA in federal monitoring. Let’s take a related example – how to determine eligibility for Head Start/Early Head Start services. To ensure compliance, staff members who determine eligibility need to know what the procedures are for making a determination. Procedures will serve as a consistent, detailed roadmap for all staff. In the absence of such procedures or if the procedures are not detailed or comprehensive, staff members may be unclear about requirements and more likely to make mistakes or complete their tasks (e.g., reviewing eligibility documentation, calculating income) incorrectly. These inconsistencies, that could have been mitigated with clear and comprehensive policies and procedures, can lead to the type of finding that results in designation for DRS.

How can programs implement a manageable approach to updating and developing policies and procedures?

We understand that drafting and updating policies and procedures can feel like a big undertaking – and it is! There are ways that you can make the process more manageable. First, make it standard practice to develop or update policies or procedures whenever there is a significant change in program operation (e.g., converting Head Start to Early Head Start).

Second, use a process that includes assigned roles and a timeline for regular updates. Create an annual calendar, and develop benchmarks for when each section of the manual will be reviewed and updated. Don’t try to tackle the whole manual at once. Go section-by-section and make policy and procedure updates a regular, recurring activity.

Finally, when thinking about the content, remember that clarity, consistency, and compliance are key.

Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services include providing assistance to Head Start/Early Head Start programs with their policies and procedures. Our teamof consultants is highly skilled at implementing services remotely. If your program is interested to learn more, please contact us.

Thank you.

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