During the past six months, we’ve introduced concepts in the Talking Points blog about how Head Start/Early Head Start programs can take a planned and systematic approach to minimize the risk of being identified for participation in the Designation Renewal System (DRS) and improve program services. Today, we bring it full circle with this risk mitigation recap.

Five core program activities are central to continuous improvement. These activities, when coordinated and high quality, have the potential to be highly impactful for programs.

Community Assessment. Community assessment is foundational to program planning, self-assessment, and improvement. Moving away from this being a check the box activity to one that is comprehensive and detailed leads to a useful report that highlights community needs and strengths in meaningful ways. Check out Three Guiding Principles to Improve Community Assessment to learn how process, analysis, and reflection can elevate your program’s community assessment.

Policies and Procedures. Current, detailed policies and procedures can make a significant difference in a program’s ability to implement and monitor its program activities. Policy and procedure work can feel like a big undertaking. In our recent blog post, Develop and Update Policies and Procedures for Compliance and Clarity, you can explore a manageable approach to developing and updating policies and procedures.

Ongoing Monitoring and Data Management. With detailed and current policies and procedures in place, your program can more readily monitor its activities. In Make Ongoing Monitoring Central to an Effective Monitoring System, explore five questions to inspire reflection about how your program can most effectively support ongoing monitoring. An intentional focus on ongoing monitoring is a way to leverage regular, required, program activities to reduce risk and improve program quality.

Self-Assessment. As your program builds a stronger community assessment, leans on a foundation set with policies and procedures, and gathers data through ongoing monitoring, consider how you use information learned to inform your program’s annual self-assessment. In How to Use Self-Assessment to Mitigate Risk in Head Start, we highlight the importance of pre-planning before designing your self-assessment process, alignment with protocols, and consideration of how data from the self-assessment will support program quality.

Federal Review Preparation. As your program considers how each of these areas help to improve program quality, keep in mind that you can also leverage these successes in your program’s federal reviews. Review Planning for your Focus Area 2 Review in FY2021 for strategies for how to prepare for your review to mitigate risk and improve program quality. All of the work your program has done – from community assessment, to policies and procedures and self-assessment – will help to support a strong review.

Interested to learn more about how to improve quality in your program? Check out a new space on our website – Continuous Improvement for Head Start and Early Head Start – where we detail each of the above areas and describe services available to programs.

A team of highly skilled consultants, with significant experience implementing services remotely, implements Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services. If you are interested to learn more about how we might support your program, please contact us.

Thank you.

Thank you for reading our blog. We encourage you to use our blog posts for thought, integration, and sharing. When using or sharing content from blog posts, please attribute the original content to Foundations for Families.

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