This is the time of year that programs who competed for DRS grants in the fall typically begin to receive notification of an award or are contacted by the Office of Head Start (OHS) to begin negotiations. The eighth round of DRS was one of the largest rounds of DRS to date and soon many of the awardees will enter the start-up period.

In our experience, start-up budgets vary widely from one program to the next. Sometimes, programs are awarded funding for a program design that is the same as or closely aligned to what they’ve implemented in the past. In these cases, few start-up activities or supplies are needed. In other cases, program have start-up budgets that are extensive. These are typically existing programs that have redesigned their program, or agencies taking over a new Head Start/Early Head Start grant.

The Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for DRS Round 8 established an expectation that Head Start/Early Head Start services will “begin quickly after award, with minimal start-up period.” Below are strategies for your program to keep in mind as it transitions to into start-up so that it can achieve timely implementation of its program.

As your program completes negotiations on the terms of its award, keep your proposed start-up budget close at hand. Any changes to program design (e.g., numbers of slots, program types, locations) could impact start up. Your start-up plan, particularly if implementing major program design changes or a new program, will be critical to the success of your program.

Revisit your start-up budget so that you’re clear about the top start-up needs of your program. More extensive start-up budgets could include activities such as recruiting and training staff, developing plans to provide services, fiscal management planning, establishing oversight and monitoring systems, recruitment and enrollment of children, and updating classroom and outdoor environments.

Establish a start-up implementation team and determine if you need a start-up planner. Having a team and expertise in place will help to ensure you hit the ground running and smoothly navigate the start up period. Many programs across the country are dealing with closures or service disruptions due to Covid-19. Consider how you will make sure that your DRS start up is a top focus when there are competing priorities.

Develop and follow a start-up work plan and timeline. Whether using the services of a start-up planner or an internal team, we can’t stress enough the importance of having a detailed work plan with timeline to guide your start-up activities. Determine what can be addressed quickly and easily. Find the areas that will take more effort, resources, or time. If you anticipate needing assistance, seek support early in the process to ensure on-time completion.

If your program needs assistance determining start-up needs or is considering leveraging the services of a start up planner please be in touch. Foundations for Families team members have successfully supported Head Start/Early Head Start grantees through the start-up period to successfully implement their new grant. We would be glad to discuss your program’s needs and how we can help.

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