Planning For Early Head Start Expansion
Apr 01, 2009
It's not too soon for child care and early education providers to be thinking about whether they will be able to take part in a major opportunity provided by the inclusion of $1.1 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the federal Early Head Start program. State and local policymakers can also be considering how to help providers in their states and communities compete for new dollars. Some states already have experience working with Early Head Start programs from their own state-funded initiatives.
Early Head Start provides early education and comprehensive health, nutrition, and family support services to low-income children from birth to age 3, their families, and expectant mothers. Until now, federal funding only reached about 3 percent of eligible children.
The Office of Head Start has not yet released guidance explaining how programs may apply for these new funds. However, it is likely that new programs will be able to apply. Current Early Head Start grantees may also be interested in expanding in part by partnering with other child care and early education providers in their communities. In preparation, state and local leaders and program directors will want to review federal Head Start Program Performance Standards that govern Early Head Start. In California, a free webinar series to do just that has been developed by WestEd with First 5 California in partnership with WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies, the California Head Start Association, and Preschool California. This is just one example of how state leaders can help grantees, school districts, and child care providers be a part of this major opportunity to provide more low-income babies and toddlers with an early head start.
Additional technical assistance supported by the Office of Head Start is likely to come. For example, the annual Birth to Three Institute offered in June by the Early Head Start National Resource Center features the session, Considerations for Early Head Start Expansion. Policymakers and providers will want to keep watching for federal guidance and additional technical assistance in this area.