By Gwynne Scheffer

Program planning is critical to delivering a high quality and comprehensive Head Start and Early Head Start programming. Determining community strengths and needs and using a systematic process for creating achievable goals, writing plans and meeting fiscal objectives is the foundation of the continuous cycle of key management systems outlined in 45 CRF 1304.51(a) o f the Head Start Performance Standards.

One resource that offers a great starting point to deepen your understanding is The Program Planning Cycle document available on the Head Start Early Learning and Knowledge Center (ECKLC),

As a visual learner, I appreciate graphics. Whether you are a new or existing program, the diagram on Page 3 provides you with an easy to follow overview of the steps in the planning cycle. In addition to the listing the steps in the planning cycle, there is an outline of data activities that occur at each step and diagram on Page 5.

To further support your understanding of the concepts outlined in the planning cycle document, download, The Head Start Program Planning Cycle PowerPoint for trainers, from The National Center on Program Management and Fiscal Operations (PMFO) series, Management Matters. Once you download the .ppt, in addition to reading walking through the planning cycle, you will have access the trainer’s notes for each slide making it a wonderful resource for professional development.

In the words of Winston Churchill,

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

These resources may help you facilitate change, and so can we!


Please reach out to Foundations for Families if you need help with your new grant. For a limited time and to a small number of agencies, we are offering a one day, on-site strategy session to help chart your critical path to success. To all agencies, we are offering a comprehensive, multi-day, on-site strategy session to result in a detailed, documented vision for your startup period with timelines and key milestones for an on-time, high quality start-up. This option includes document review prior to the visit and follow-up technical assistance. Foundations for Families is also offering technical support and coaching for success during the implementation of the start-up period. Please call 703-599-4329 or email Amy at [email protected]


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