As programs settle into the new program year, many are looking ahead to Head Start/Early Head Start monitoring reviews. Reviews are around the corner, as Focus Area Two will begin in October, followed by Focus Area One in November. This is the time of year when the Office of Head Start (OHS) releases updated monitoring protocols and guidance for programs to consider.

In FY2023 there are process and content considerations for both focus areas that programs may find helpful if preparing for a review. Information was gathered from the OHS FY2023 Monitoring Kickoff Webinar took place last week (you can watch the recording on demand) as well as resources in the Aligned Monitoring Virtual Expo.

What will the process be for FY2023 monitoring?

Like last year, Focus Area One reviews will take place virtually. They will continue to be discussion-based and follow the protocol. At the NHSA Fall Leadership Institute, OHS shared that reviews will be more streamlined than in the past and there will be fewer protocol questions. Note that the Focus Area One protocol has not yet been release (it is expected in coming weeks).

Focus Area Two reviews will follow a hybrid approach and include a mix of virtual and onsite activities. Specifically, the Review Lead and one Reviewer will be onsite. Classroom observations and center explorations will be completed in-person. The Fiscal Reviewer and second generalist Reviewer will complete their activities virtually.

New in FY2023, Focus Area Two reviews will test Promising Practice questions. These questions will gather data on grantee implementation of high-quality practices and performance that will lead to strong program results outside of HSPPS and compliance requirements.

How will monitoring protocols be the same or different than previous years?

As noted above, the FY2023 Focus Area One protocol hasn’t been released yet. Substantial changes are not anticipated. Stay tuned for more information!

The FY2023 Focus Area Two Monitoring Protocol was released in September. While there are no major changes, there are a few additions to the protocol and some sections and data questions from last year have been streamlined. Specifically, there are two new questions in the Health section related to staff wellness and licensing requirements. A question that had previously been in the ERSEA section related to tracking services to enrolled pregnant women was also moved to the Health section. Further, while the protocols from the last two years had explicit questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now only one. All COVID-specific questions have been removed with the exception of the Monitoring and Implementing Fiscal Infrastructure section (Ongoing Fiscal Capacity, PM2, question 4).

What other factors should programs consider?

 One important point from the OHS FY2023 Monitoring Kickoff Webinar that we want to pass along is a focus from OHS on response to the recently released U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General report, ACF Should Improve Oversight of Head Start to Better Protect Children’s Safety. OHS highlighted the September 27, 2022 Information Memorandum which states health and safety reporting requirements, including reporting timelines, reportable incidents, and consequences for failure to report. OHS stressed the importance of children’s safety and noted that protocols may include questions about reporting.

 How can programs prepare?

We recommend giving your program time for federal review preparation. This might include a thorough review of protocols, practice responding to questions, and gathering data and reports. Taking these steps will also help to build staff members’ readiness and confidence for when the review takes place.

Given the focus on children’s safety noted above, we recommend that programs preparing for a monitoring visit review their policies and procedures on reporting (e.g., completing incident/accident reports, reporting to licensing and OHS) as soon as possible. Make sure policies and procedures are up to date and compliant. If asked about these areas, your proactive work will help with responses to questions.

If your program anticipates a federal monitoring review this program year, we encourage you to explore Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services. If your program needs assistance preparing for a federal review, please be in touch. Our team of consultants will work with your program to determine a process, timeline, and approach that is the best fit for your needs. 

Thank you.

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