If your program is required to compete for continued Head Start/Early Head Start funding during the upcoming round of Designation Renewal System (DRS), round 7, then you may be wondering when the DRS Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) will be forecasted. We are, too! Whether it’s sooner or later there are steps you can take to ensure you’re ready. Sometimes having a bit of extra time before the FOA is released can be to your benefit!

Earlier this month, we published a blog post, 5 Factors That Make a Difference in DRS Proposal Development. One of the factors discussed is the importance of having a current, high quality community assessment. Having relevant data at your fingertips when you write your DRS proposal is a significant asset. This data will be particularly useful for the Demonstration of Need section of your proposal.

The most recent round of DRS, which concluded in early April, required applicants to provide the following data as part of their Demonstration of Need:

  • Number of eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers by geographic location;
  • Number of families in extreme poverty;
  • Jobless rates; and
  • Incidence of community health problems or other similar factors.

The Demonstration of Need section also asked applicants to describe or provide information regarding the availability and access to early childhood education services for low-income infants, toddlers, or preschoolers in the proposed geographic area. It required applicants to talk about how the program will ensure that not less than 10 percent of the total number of children enrolled will be children with disabilities. Data in each of these areas is essential.

You’ll find other places in the FOA where providing data will help to show the reviewer that you understand community needs and have a plan to address those needs. For example, the Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes to Promote School Readiness for Children section of the FOA asks you to talk about how the program will meet the unique needs of special populations – children with disabilities, dual language learners, families experiencing homelessness, working families, and children with foster care.

This is a lot of data! The good news is that all of this should be included in your program’s Community Assessment. The new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) require that grantees complete a Community Assessment once during a 5-year grant cycle. The Community Assessment must be reviewed and updated annually.

We strongly recommend that you pull out your most recent Community Assessment and give it a thorough read through. Ask yourself whether the data you are required to provide is there, and whether that data is accurate and current. Consider if data is comprehensive and clear. Does it give you the information you will need to draft the Demonstration of Need section of your DRS proposal?

If it seems like your Community Assessment data is out-of-date, not relevant, or doesn’t give you the information you’ll need for DRS then we recommend updating the data. Depending on when you last conducted a Community Assessment this might be a full Community Assessment process. Or, if you conducted your Community Assessment in the last couple of years then it might be an update of key information.

As part of our consulting services, Foundations for Families conducts comprehensive Community Assessments as well as assists grantees to update Community Assessment data annually. Our past experience working with grantees who are in DRS has shown us that having a current, high quality Community Assessment can be a significant factor in both the process of grant writing and the competitiveness of the proposal. While our team provides Community Assessment and grant-related services separately, we also offer an integrated approach in which we conduct Community Assessments/updates in combination with grant writing or coaching services. There are efficiencies gained when looking at Community Assessment and DRS proposal development hand-in-hand. If your program is interested to learn more and discuss what services would be best for your program please feel free to be in touch. We would be glad to talk with you!

Thank you.

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