On Thursday, September 28, the Office of Head Start (OHS) held its fifth webinar in the Making Strides in Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Series. The webinar provided an overview look at a grantee from Detroit, Michigan, Matrix Human Services, and one of its child care partners (CCP), Child Star Development Center. Child Star Development Center is one of 24 CCPs for Matrix – certainly a large grantee! If you missed the webinar, watch for it to be posted on the Making Strides page in coming weeks. It was interesting and informative!

Here are a few highlights of what we learned from the webinar –

Partnership application process. Panelists spoke about the utmost importance of having a legally binding partnership agreement with clear language. With the best of intentions Matrix put together a thorough agreement in their first year, and quickly found there were areas to improve. For instance, clearly define roles and responsibilities. Ensure the document has clear expectations and strong language related to critical components of the program (i.e. staff to child ratios, routines, and subsidy loss). Use an appendix to provide examples where necessary. Build in required meetings to address CCP needs, and use the agreement to establish a foundation for a successful relationship.

Fiscal and child care subsidies. Matrix found that the percentage of children receiving child care subsidies across their programs varied. The agency then developed a policy for CCPs that 50% of families must be enrolled in the CCP and on subsidy before being enrolled in the EHS-CCP. When there is turnover providers then make sure newly enrolled children are already receiving subsidy.

Matrix also partnered with a fiscal consultant that helped providers to understand how to break even and increase profitability with a layered funding approach, and CCPs received support to build a system to collect their fiscal documentation. The fiscal consultant was also able to develop fiscal policies and procedures to enhance operations.

Continuous improvement. Matrix and its CCPs work closely together to ensure compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). For example, CCPs receive bi-weekly curriculum training, business practices training, and opportunities to learn from a fiscal expert. Matrix includes CCPs in self-assessments and encourages them to attend conferences. At the agency-level Matrix developed a staffing structure to meet the specific needs of the EHS-CCP program. An EHS-CCP Operations Manger supervises the EHS-CCP team, visits CCPs, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the program.

Sustaining partnerships. One of the keys to sustainability is maintaining open and trustworthy relationships. It is also critical to be intentional with regard to the HSPPS and other program requirements. Clear and detailed expectations will ease the process, and it is important for CCPs to have a voice in the partnership.

So much of what we heard in the webinar rings true to what many of you have shared with us. The EHS-CCP program is a constant learning process with many opportunities for improvement!

If you’re interested in exploring deeper some of the topics that arose on the webinar, you might be interested in some of our previous blog posts such as Time to Think About EHS-CCP Start Up, Groundwork for Successful EHS-CCP Partnerships, How to Use the Six Pillars for EHS-CCP Fiscal Success, and Best Practices for Success: Contracts vs. Partnerships. Foundations for Families consultants provide hands on consulting to grantees across programmatic and fiscal aspects of EHS-CCP. Are there EHS-CCP topics you’re interested to learn more about, or are you wondering how we might be able to help your program? Please feel free to be in touch to let us know.

Thank you.

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