With Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) awards expected this spring, now is the time to think about start up planning. By taking the time now, you’ll be able to hit the ground running once your program receives its notice of award! Over the past few months we have shared many blog posts related to important start up considerations. Below, we put those considerations into five buckets, along with links to relevant posts and resources, to help set you on a path to start up success.
Getting your program organized for implementation of your new EHS-CCP award will be an important first step to success. We recommend you compile a Start Up Implementation Team. Establish a purpose for the group, define clear roles, and establish a regular meeting schedule. We also recommend you consider whether you have or need a start up planner. In the EHS-CCP round 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) the Office of Head Start strongly advised having start up planners for this complex grant program. The 18-month start up period will go quickly, and having a start up planner to keep you organized and on task could be invaluable.
Establish a Communication Strategy
One of the first items on your ‘get organized’ to do list will be to plan your EHS-CCP communication strategy. Consider who needs information – internally (e.g., Board, Policy Council, staff, parents) and externally (e.g., partners, service providers). Think about what information needs to be shared and when.
Create Action Plans
Convene your Start Up Leadership Team to create detailed and dynamic plan action plans with specific timelines clearly defined responsibilities. Update your action plan throughout the start up period and adapt, as needed. Use the plan as a tool to capture accomplishment and key milestones, and let it drive your Start up Leadership Team agenda setting during the start up period. Also, consider including child care partners in your start up planning. Having a shared goal of successful planning will help lead to successful implementation.
Finalize your child care partner selection process and lay the groundwork for successful partnerships. We recommend engaging your partners in candid discussions about the specific outcomes of the grant, program goals, objectives, and EHS requirements. When selecting your Round 2 child care partners use a protocol that will help to ensure you’re selecting strong partners that are committed to your model. Alternatively, if you are an existing Round 1 grantee, you might be expanding capacity in your current child care partners’ sites. Assuming smooth partnerships under your Round 1 grant, “selection” of your Round 2 partners will likely require less formal protocol. Consider whether your process aligns more with a “contract” or a “partnership” approach. It will be important to find the right balance.
Build Strong Fiscal Management and Monitoring Practices
To avoid some of the fiscal challenges experienced by Round 1 EHS-CCP grantees, establishing strong fiscal management and monitoring practices is essential. Remember that the FY2017 Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Monitoring Protocol is available for your guidance and there is a significant focus on fiscal aspects of the partnership. We also recommend you consider Foundations for Families’ six pillars for EHS-CCP fiscal success. This six-component, interrelated, comprehensive approach will help you to achieve the overall goals of the EHS-CCP initiative.
Prepare your program for EHS-CCP fiscal monitoring. Use written agreements to document your fiscal approach. Pay particular attention to staffing and compensation, implementation of reimbursements, and subsidy management. You will also need to ensure strong internal controls and be able to document and articulate the attainment of non-federal share.
One fundamental lesson learned in Round 1 is that very few applicants could tell you what it costs to operate a high quality classroom compliant with Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) within the context of a child care partner’s business. It’s critical to figure out what it actually costs to operate a classroom in your service area to serve the most needy infants and toddlers. Develop a detailed budget in collaboration with your child care partners. Understand your partners’ needs and skills related to fiscal management and develop a professional development plan and resources to provide support.
Throughout your start up journey we recommend you work from clear expectations and identify where help is needed. Foundations for Families has extensive experience working with Round 1 EHS-CCP grantees, including serving as start up planner. Whether it is training, coaching, action plan creation, budget development and fiscal management, or anything in between, we work collaboratively with your staff to achieve program goals. Please contact Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at [email protected] to explore ways we can assist your program.
Foundations for Families offers EHS-CCP grantees targeted technical assistance and strength-based coaching of key start-up staff. We have helped multiple organizations design, plan for, and draft successful proposals for EHS-CCP. Please be in touch with Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at 703-599-4329 or [email protected] to learn about how we can support you and your program.
It was clear that we needed some significant expertise and help to put the organizational, fiscal, program and policy structure in place to run this program well and remain in compliance. I would highly recommend the work of Foundation for Families and the value that they bring in terms of knowledge and expertise (both breadth and depth), skillfulness in working with management and staff, and their passion for this work. I would also highly recommend Foundation for Families for those existing or long-standing HS/EHS programs that are looking for ways to improve their Program Management and Fiscal Operations (PMFO).
Dave Kontur, Executive Director of the Lucas County Family and Children First Council (EHS Delegate and EHS-CCP Delegate)