Underenrollment action planning is well on its way for some Head Start/Early Head Start programs, and will be soon for many more. Whether responding to an underenrollment letter that has been received, or one expected soon, submitting a Change in Scope Request to the Office of Head Start (OHS) is one strategy programs might consider to mitigate underenrollent challenges and deal with an ongoing child care workforce staffing crisis.

We understand if programs feel a sense of urgency to submit a Change in Scope Request and have it approved. Underenrollment is challenging and the stakes are high for maintaining funding and services for children and families. As an alternative to submitting an immediate request for Change in Scope, we encourage you to consider a pathway that will allow for thoughtful planning and sufficient time for approval during the underenrollment action planning period. This may help to ensure that a program’s Change in Scope Request is successful.

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is expected to make underenrollment decisions beginning in February 2024 for the first cohort of programs that received an underenrollment letter. Assuming a 90-day review and approval timeline for OHS to consider a program’s Change in Scope, we recommend that requests are submitted no later than November 1, 2023. This way, responses (or decisions) can be received within the 12 month period for determining chronic underenrollment and considered as part of the action/response plan to the underenrollment letter.

Backing into a timeline in which a Change in Scope Request is submitted at least 90 days prior to the end of the action planning period leaves 9 months for programs to conduct or update community assessments, wage studies, other required data points, and budget planning – all which will support stronger applications. With this approach, your program will have what it needs to put together a responsive and data-driven request.

Below are a few additional tips and strategies to help your program plan for and submit a Change in Scope Request.

  1. Establish a Change in Scope Request team that includes – at a minimum – program, fiscal, and human resources staff.
  2. Create a work plan for development of the Change in Scope Request that includes roles and responsibilities, timelines, and resources.
  3. Engage Board and Policy Council to inform them of the possibility of a Change in Scope and to get their input and feedback.
  4. Review key data sources and develop a plan for updates, including data that will be needed to justify the Change in Scope Request.
  5. Convene a program design strategic planning session to identify priorities, narrow options, and consider budget scenarios.
  6. Identify potential community partners to support implementation of the Change in Scope.

Lastly, we recommend that your program schedules a meeting with its Program Specialist. Use this time to share your program’s interest in exploring a Change in Scope Request. You can describe your initial thinking and ideas from your program’s strategic planning. This conversation is also an opportunity to obtain valuable feedback and guidance that will help to inform decision-making for a Change in Scope Request.

Our team at Foundations for Families has a variety of services available to support programs that are planning for and submitting a Change in Scope Request. This includes toolkits, community assessment and wage study data gathering, and quality reviews, in addition to support with program design strategy and writing Change in Scope Requests. Please contact us with any questions or to discuss your program’s needs.

Thank you,

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