Last month, we published a blog post that described the importance of revisiting start up plans as you enter negotiations for your Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant. It is timely to look more specifically at how to prepare your program for start up. Here, we offer six tips to help set you on a path to start up success.
1. Plan ahead to ensure start up funding aligns with start up needs. The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the EHS and EHS-CCP grant makes it clear that start up is critical and also stresses that grantees must be fully enrolled 12 months after receiving their grant award. The start up period will move quickly, and its essential to plan ahead to ensure that funding aligns with your start up needs. Look at your proposal with fresh eyes to find any holes in your start up plan.
2. Ground yourself in HSPPS and the Head Start Act. Regardless of the model your program is funded to implement, we recommend you begin by grounding yourself in Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and the Head Start Act. Particularly if you will be implementing the EHS-CCP model for the first time, or with new partners, it might be helpful to take a look at standards and requirements from the angle of a new EHS center or home. Everything you do during the start up period will ultimately tie back to these requirements, so keep them at the forefront of all of your start up activities.
3. Dig into the specifics of your start up activities. The EHS Expansion and EHS-CCP grant allows a wide range of activities to take place during the start up period. Given the limited proposal space, it’s not uncommon for applicants to speak broadly about the activities that will take place during the start up period. Some of your start up items might be more straightforward than others – for example, the purchase of classroom materials and supplies, or a planned modification to space. The flip side is developing monitoring and oversight systems for child care partners, updating policies and procedures, or assessing and planning to meet partner needs. These (among many others!) are not small tasks! This leads to our next recommendation…
4. Develop and follow a start up work plan. Last month, we noted the importance of having a start up team or individual to oversee start up activities. We can’t stress enough the importance of having a detailed work plan with timeline to guide your start up activities. Begin by identifying your low-hanging fruit – what can you address quickly and easily? Then find the other areas that may take more effort, resources, or time. If you anticipate needing support with any of these more challenging items then seek support early in the process to ensure timely completion that keeps you in compliance with full enrollment within 12 months. Consider working with a start up planner who can oversee start up and assist with start up activities.
5. Engage partners and stakeholders in a timely and coordinated manner. During your start up period, you might be refining or establishing agreements with partners (e.g., early intervention). Or, if implementing the CCP model, with child care partners. The time to establish the terms of an agreement and move it through the necessary channels for signature varies. If you are establishing new child care partner agreements, and working with partners to assess their needs beforehand, you will want to allow time for a thoughtful process. Our experience working with round 1 and round 2 EHS-CCP grantees is that taking time to understand partner strengths and needs is essential to their (and your!) success. If you uncover a specific need (e.g., fiscal management), you can build those supports into your agreement with the partners.
6. Leverage relationships and other funding streams to enhance start up activities. We’ve seen great successes with grantees thinking broadly about how to enhance start up activities with other funding streams or through existing relationships. Have you considered joint trainings, if there are other EHS or EHS-CCP grantees near to you? Are there other local, state, or privately funded grants to support facilities improvements? Bring partners and stakeholders to the table to discuss the ECE landscape broadly and how you might access support beyond your new grant that will help to ensure implementation success.
With the project start date fast approaching, we look forward to hearing EHS Expansion and EHS-CCP awards. If your program is in need of start up support please be in touch. We would be glad to discuss Foundations for Families consulting services and how we can help to meet your program’s needs.