On November 7, 2022, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued an Information Memorandum, Enrollment Reductions and Conversion of Head Start Slots to Early Head Start Slots (ACF-IM-HS-22-09), that provides guidance to Head Start/Early Head Start programs about how to submit a change in scope and the factors that programs should take into consideration for such a request.

The IM advises that change in scope requests must be submitted at least 90 days prior to the proposed implementation date, however planning will need to begin much sooner. The IM describes the key aspects that may influence a request for reduction or conversion.

…the decision to request a reduction or conversion should be based on actual changes in the community and program adjustments necessary to maintain a high-quality program with qualified staff, supported by data and documented need, and not based on anticipated changes. It is important to consider community partnerships and resources in the service area, short and long-term goals, and program sustainability when considering a change in scope request.

If your program plans to request a change in scope, we recommend you think about it from two perspectives, data and design. Data will come first, and design will follow.

Data will include information from your program’s most recent community assessment (or update), wage comparability study, and annual self-assessment. Each of these include components related to staffing and training needs which will be essential to ensure the availability of a consistent and well-compensated workforce to support your new service delivery model.

Community assessment will provide data about eligible children (how many, their ages, where they live) and programs serving eligible children. It will also define the needs of children, families, and communities. A request for change in scope will describe how program services will meet these needs. A program’s wage comparability study will dovetail with community assessment to describe staffing needs and provide data that will support a competitive compensation system. And, the annual self-assessment, which evaluates compliance and effectiveness of meeting program goals, will provide data that informs continuous program improvement. A change in scope request will bring all these pieces together – through data, and then through design.

From the design perspective, there are two main pieces, service delivery model (program design) and budget. The IM stresses that “requested changes to services and resources are aligned to meet the needs of the children and families in their community.” Planning the service delivery model will entail a detailed review of data and discussions about how to meet identified needs (e.g., conversion of EHS slots to HS; conversion from home-based to center-based; reduction in slots; changes to staffing model; changes to compensation plan). Budget planning will then require a review of existing and anticipated costs and consideration of any budget differences resulting from the new service delivery model proposed in the change in scope request (e.g., staffing, supplies, cost allocation).

As you plan your program’s service delivery model, consider running a few scenarios to understand the budget implications of the changes you’re proposing. For example, if you are proposing to reduce slots to increase compensation, how many slots will you need to eliminate to capture sufficient funding for the increase? This is an important exercise before making final decisions about a reduction or a conversion, as changes to the service delivery model will have a ripple effect throughout the budget.

Taking the time to gather data and engage in planning is both necessary and beneficial for the long-term success of the program. Whether in the data phase or the design phase of your planning, Foundations for Families can help. We offer an array of our Consulting Services such as community assessment, program design planning and budget modeling, and grant writing. Please be in touch to explore how we can help to meet your program’s needs.

Thank you.

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