Earlier this summer, we published a blog post about how well-defined policies and procedures can help new and experienced staff to understand their role and support program monitoring. Documenting policies and procedures, particularly following rapid changes that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, is foundational to providing support for staff. And, federal updates have added a layer for programs to consider.

We understand that during the last two years many programs have not had the capacity – either because of reduced staffing or redirected time and attention – to maintain up-to-date policies and procedures. You might now be in a place where you feel like your program needs to “catch up.” If this is the case, we suggest you begin by asking, what changes did the program make to service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Perhaps your program created new practices to ensure safe environments for children (e.g., cleaning and disinfecting). With federal vaccine requirements, you may now also have protocols in place for documenting staff members’ vaccination status. And, you might need to update policies and procedures to reflect the recent allowance to enroll children receiving SNAP benefits as categorically eligible for Head Start/Early Head Start. These are just a few of many examples. Of the changes to service delivery, what was time-limited and what will your program carry forward and need to document?

As a result of changes to service delivery, your program might have also updated its orientation for staff and volunteers to emphasize areas in new or different ways. These changes to orientation should also be covered in policies and procedures. Being mindful of the many ways your program has adapted will support aligned updates in policies and procedures that are then communicated to staff through orientation, training, and other job supports.

Just as maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures is important to support staff in their day-to-day responsibilities, it is essential to ensure compliance and readiness for federal monitoring reviews. As the COVID-19 pandemic stabilized, the Office of Head Start (OHS) has emphasized the importance of Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA) policies and procedures to serve children most in need, as identified in the program’s community assessment. Federal staff have also highlighted the need to continue to document COVID-related practices while returning focus to full enrollment of children into in-person services.

The process to document policies and procedures is a big undertaking. Starting with recent changes you’ve made to service delivery will help your program to capture the most time sensitive updates. After your program has refreshed its policies and procedures, we recommend creating a plan for regular updates going forward, if you don’t already have a process in place.

Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services include providing assistance to Head Start/Early Head Start programs with their policies and procedures. Our team of consultants will work with your program to determine a process, timeline, and approach that is the best fit for your needs. If your program is interested to learn more, please reach out.

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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