Understanding Evaluation Criteria for Applications

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) does not provide direct guidance or instruction in the development of an applicant's project design or in writing their applications. Applicants should use their best judgment in determining whether they are able to meet the requirements contained in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), whether they are able to develop an application they believe to be responsive to the FOA and in designing and writing their applications. Applications will be reviewed and evaluated by objective review panels using the criteria described in Section V.1 of the FOA. The review panels will use this evaluation criteria as their principal guidance in the same way that it is the principal guidance for applicants.

The criteria listed below is excerpted from Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission and Section V.1. Criteria of the FOA as an additional resource. Applicants should respond to the specific language in the FOA for their individual service area.

Head Start Criteria

Applications competing for financial assistance will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application proposal addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, particularly in the project description and budget justification, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

The review of applications is structured in two phases. Phase One will result in a numerical score as evaluated by a panel of non-federal reviewers. Phase Two criteria will not be used by reviewers to score applications, but will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase One and Phase Two reviews.

PHASE ONE

1. Demonstration of Need for Child Development and Health Services: Location, Population, and Service Delivery Options

Maximum Points: 20

Young child with a toothbrush

The application must identify the specific geographic location(s) to be served and provide data about why that geographic area is in high need of Head Start services, such as the number of eligible children, the extent to which children from low-income families are not meeting school readiness goals, the number of families in extreme poverty, jobless rates, high incidents of community health problems or violence, or other similar factors. Applicants should leverage existing needs assessment and school readiness data for the proposed service area where appropriate and applicable, and if necessary, applications can include other methods to collect data on the need for services such as informal surveys, community meetings, questionnaires, and interviews.

The application must describe proposed program options. This includes how many children will be served; the types of Head Start services they will provide; as well as the number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits that meet the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. Applications that propose the home-based option must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations. The application must describe how the Head Start program will partner with other programs or services in the community to meet the needs of low-income families to be served.

Head Start is designed to increase the number of low-income children receiving high-quality, comprehensive early education services that help facilitate healthy development, including physical and social/emotional development, and prepare them for school success. To meet this goal, it is critical that Head Start funds awarded through this FOA do not supplant existing services. Thus, an entity receiving a Head Start grant must: 1) expand the number of children it is serving relative to the number it would serve in the absence of the grant; and/or 2) improve the services provided to children it would serve in the absence of the grant. In this section, applicants must describe how the number of children served and the type of services received would be affected if the applicant is awarded a grant to implement the proposed set of services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Young child playing with a puzzle
  • 1.1. Clearly identifies the precise geographic location and boundaries of the area the applicant proposes to serve. The applicant must use information from its community assessment to define the area(s) of greatest need and show how it will direct Head Start resources to these areas.
  • 1.2. Provides a detailed description of its plan to provide child development services for the highest need Head Start-eligible children and families. This plan must include education, health, nutrition, social, and family support services, and other service needs of these children, including the special populations the applicant proposes to serve (children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children, children in foster care, etc.). The plan must include the number of eligible children to be served by geographic location and by program option, and the estimated number of children needing full-day and full-year care. The applicant must describe its procedures to identify children with disabilities.
  • 1.3. Demonstrates community engagement in the geographic locations proposed by the applicant in order to improve the efficiency of service delivery, increase access to needed services, and prevent duplication. Demonstration of community engagement may include memoranda of understanding that provide commitments of exchange of services, resource support, referrals, or other agreements.
  • 1.4. Justifies the program option or options as most appropriate for the communities in which the applicant proposes to provide services (e.g., part- or full-day center-based, home-based, family child care, or combination option, including the number of children to be served by each option). If proposing to serve in multiple communities, the applicant specifies the number of children to be served in each community. The application specifies how the proposed number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits meets the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. Applicants proposing the home-based option must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations. The applicant's proposed program option(s) support(s) the needs of children and families as described in response to the evaluation criteria listed above. Applicants must propose a number of weeks per year that meets the Head Start requirements.
  • 1.5. Describes how children and families will be recruited and selected for the program to ensure that services will be provided to those who have the most serious need for Head Start services. The applicant describes how the program will ensure that not less than 10 percent of the total number of children actually enrolled will be children with disabilities.
  • 1.6. Clearly states how many children the applicant is currently serving as a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, delegate agency, or partner to a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, or in other early education or related programs. Clearly states how many Head Start and/or Early Head Start children the applicant would serve if awarded this grant.

2. Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes to Promote School Readiness for Children

Maximum Points: 40

Head Start is designed to help children start school ready to succeed. School readiness requires that children are cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally prepared to continue to make progress as they enter Kindergarten. Head Start is governed by Program Performance Standards that define the scope of services necessary to support children's development across all domains. The application must demonstrate the capacity to implement and sustain a plan for providing comprehensive, high-quality, individualized educational, health, mental health, nutritional, oral health, and other social services to children and their families that prepare children to succeed in school. To this end, the applicants must describe how they will implement program components.

The application must name the curriculum or curricula that will be used, describe why that curriculum/curricula was selected, and present the evidence basis that the curriculum/curricula effectively improves school readiness. The application also must include information about how the applicant will meet the health, nutrition, and family engagement needs of children. Applicants must describe how service effectiveness and quality will be measured, monitored, and improved upon over time. The applicant must show how it will use child assessment data and other program data to individualize services and learning opportunities for children and to inform continuous program improvement; how they will provide ongoing professional development, including regular observation and feedback; how they will engage parents in their roles as teachers and advocates for their children; and how they will partner with local education agencies, child care programs, and other programs serving young children and their families to create continuity for children across systems.

The application must also describe how the applicant will meet the unique needs of special populations, including children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children, children in working families, and children in foster care.

The application will be evaluated based on the degree to which the proposed program will meet the comprehensive needs of children in the community, including the special populations described above. The applicant must provide information about why it made various programmatic choices, including, where applicable, how its choices reflect the best practices in the field as well as the unique needs of the community it will serve. In addition, the application must propose the coordination of services within a community that support transitions for children and families in accordance with 45 CFR § 1304.41 of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

If applicable, the application provides information about proposed delegate agencies, how those delegate agencies were chosen, and how the grantee's oversight will ensure the delegate agencies implement high-quality programs that adhere to the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Young boy in the grass
  • 2.1. Provides a plan to implement a high-quality, comprehensive program for the population the applicant proposes to serve, using a curriculum and teaching practices that promote progress toward school readiness goals and are:
    • Based on scientifically valid research
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Aligned with all relevant state early learning guidelines and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework
  • 2.2. The application specifies the name of the curriculum or curricula proposed to be used, why the curriculum was chosen, and the evidence supporting how the curriculum is tied to outcomes for children. The applicant discusses what tools it will use to support domains that the selected curriculum does not support.
  • 2.3. Describes the process for establishing and measuring school readiness goals, including the plans to address the domains of:
    • Language and literacy development
    • Cognition and general knowledge
    • Approaches toward learning
    • Physical well-being and motor development
    • Social and emotional development

    School readiness goals must reflect the ages of children, 3 to 5, who will be participating in the program and must be culturally and linguistically appropriate and align with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, state early learning guidelines, and the requirements and expectations of schools the children will attend after Head Start. The application explains the extent to which school readiness goals were or will be established in consultation with the parents of children who will be participating in the program.

  • 2.4. Describes how the applicant will meet the needs of children with disabilities, including procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist the children in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.5. Describes how the applicant will meet the unique needs of its targeted population, including children in the child welfare system, dual language learners, and homeless children. The application describes the procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist these children in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.6. Describes how the applicant will meet the health, mental health, nutritional, and oral health needs of children. The application describes the system for health screening and services that will ensure children are accurately referred for necessary follow-up evaluation and treatment within timeframes specified by Head Start regulations. Screening and services for identified needs include, at a minimum, health, sensory, developmental, and oral health, and may be provided directly or through community partner providers.
  • 2.7. If proposing center-based or family child care services, the applicant describes a plan for observing teacher practice, including teacher-child interactions. If proposing home-based services, the applicant describes a plan for observing home visitor practice, including interactions with the family and child, and supporting the parents in their role as the child’s primary caregiver/teacher. For all program services, the applicant describes using this information to inform professional development and practice improvements. The application includes the name of any instruments to be used.
  • 2.8. Describes a plan to use child assessment data to individualize the instruction and learning for each child and, as necessary, refer for additional evaluation and intervention, and to aggregate and analyze child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period) and use that analysis in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals, to inform parents and the community of results, and to direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design, and other program decisions, in accordance with 45 CFR § 1307.3(b)(2). Applicants are reminded that assessments must be developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate.
  • 2.9. Describes a plan to coordinate with public and private entities that are willing to commit resources to assist the Head Start program in providing high-quality child health and developmental services and program management services. Such partnerships must include a plan to coordinate the proposed Head Start program with other child care and preschool programs, state pre-Kindergarten programs, programs under Part C and Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and with the educational programs that children to be served will enter upon leaving Head Start.
  • 2.10. Provides a plan to facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents (including mothers, fathers, grandparents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers, as appropriate) in activities (at home and, if practicable, at the location of the Head Start program) designed to help them become full partners in the education of their children. Such engagement includes participation in the conduct of the program, leadership opportunities, support of the child's development and health, support for the parent-child relationship, opportunities for employment, and other paths to improved financial well-being. The application identifies and addresses barriers to parent participation, such as lack of transportation access or need for child care.
  • 2.11. Explains the plan to implement the Head Start Parent Family and Community Engagement Framework and to offer family literacy and parenting skills training using evidence-based curricula and approaches either directly or through referral to local entities, public and school libraries, and entities carrying out family support programs. The application includes a plan to offer (either directly or through referrals) other support for families struggling with mental health challenges, domestic violence, homelessness, or substance abuse.

3. Past Performance

Maximum Points: 20

Young boy smiling

The applicant provides evidence of organizational experience (including the experience of key leaders in the organization) that supports its ability to implement a comprehensive child development program. Reviewers will evaluate the degree to which the application demonstrates a high-functioning program with a competent management team and effective systems with demonstrated capacity to use data to inform continuous improvement in such areas as professional development, instructional practices, and family engagement.

The application must provide detailed information about how the applicant's past experience in early education (or related fields) and in communities similar to the targeted community will enable them to operate a successful Head Start program. The application must provide evidence of the quality of the early education programs or related programs they have operated in the past. The applicant must demonstrate their capacity and experience serving preschool-age children. The applicant must provide evidence of the quality of services to be provided based on licensing, accreditation, ratings, or independent evaluations of programs, outcome data for children, or other information provided.

The application must also provide information about the past experience of organizations with which it proposes to delegate all or part of its services to children and families. Please note that if the applicant is a current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantee, ACF will retrieve and review the grantee's last two OHS triennial monitoring reports, plus any other OHS monitoring reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA.

The application must explain the ways (if any) in which their past experience ― or the past experience of any delegate agencies ― differs from operating a Head Start program, both generally and as compared to the program the applicant is proposing to implement. The applicant must discuss how it will address these differences and succeed in providing effective, high-quality, comprehensive Head Start services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 3.1 Demonstrates how the applicant's history and experience, based on past performance providing high-quality early education or other related programs, supports its ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project of the size, complexity, and scope of their proposed program. Reviewers will evaluate evidence of experience, such as, but not limited to:
    • Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating
    • Record of high performance in the early primary grades by children formerly enrolled in the program
    • Evidence from use of teacher-child interaction rating system
    • Evidence of successful staff development system leading to highly qualified staff
    • Evidence of high level of success improving family self-sufficiency

    Applicants that serve or have served as delegate agencies to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must provide documentation of their past performance.

  • 3.2 Documents how the professional experience of the applicant's proposed management team (executive director, program director, managers), based on past performance providing comprehensive, high-quality early care and education, demonstrates an ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project of this size, complexity, and scope within the service area.
  • 3.3 Explains how the applicant's past performance and experience will inform its administration of the Head Start program being proposed and will help ensure a high-quality Head Start program. To the degree that the applicant is currently operating a program that differs from the Head Start program being proposed ― such as differences in the target population, the set of services provided, the structure of the program (the hours, days, or weeks of operation), the mechanisms for quality assurance and improvement, the early learning standards to be used, and the performance measurement system ― the applicant acknowledges these differences and explains how it will successfully adapt to the differences between its current program and the proposed program.
  • 3.4 Applicants that are current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantees must include a description of any repeat violations, such as deficiencies, areas of non-compliance, and/or audit findings. These repeat violations should represent findings from the last two OHS triennial monitoring reports plus any other OHS monitoring reports and any audit reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA. Applicants must describe the actions they have taken to address any repeat violations. If the applicant does not have repeat violations, this criterion is not applicable.

4. Staffing and Supporting a Strong Early Learning Workforce

Maximum Points: 20

Grandfather and young girl

The application must describe the qualifications and experience of the applicant staff in planning, organizing, and providing comprehensive child development services at the community level. The application must address: (1) how the applicant will facilitate strong educator-child relationships that support children's development; (2) how it will ensure that staff are prepared for and supported in implementing evidence-based instructional practices that are individualized based on the ongoing assessment of each child to support positive child outcomes; and (3) how it will ensure that all staff will successfully partner with families in supporting children's development. The application also must describe how the applicant will attract and retain qualified staff; how it will support staff through the regular provision of feedback, supervision, coaching, and other mechanisms; and how it will assess staff performance and address under-performing staff.

The application also must describe the management staff's knowledge of Head Start's broad requirements and how it will ensure that all program staff understand how those standards are applicable to them.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 4.1 Documents that the proposed program director and proposed key staff are qualified and knowledgeable about administering complex social service programs or early education services. The applicant describes its key staff's major functions and responsibilities in the narrative and includes their resumes in the appendix.
  • 4.2 Provides a clear plan to attract and retain qualified staff with the ability to implement a research-based curriculum, aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning standards, effective instructional strategies, and a high-quality, comprehensive program.
    • Describes how all employees in the Head Start center-based programs meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for staff qualifications set in Section 648A and what share of preschool classroom teachers are expected to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field.
    Young boy smiling and being held by an adult
    • For classroom teachers ― (a) an associate degree in early childhood education; (b) an associate degree in a related field and coursework equivalent to a major relating to early childhood education, with experience teaching preschool-age children; (c) a baccalaureate degree; or (d) has been admitted into the Teach For America program, passed a rigorous early childhood content exam, such as the Praxis II, participated in a Teach For America summer training institute that includes teaching preschool children, and is receiving ongoing professional development and support from Teach For America's professional staff.
    • For assistant teachers ― have at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential; be enrolled in a program leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree; or be enrolled in a CDA credential program to be completed within two years.
  • 4.3 Describes the plan to maintain child-to-teacher, home visitor, or family child care provider ratios, and family service worker caseloads that comply with appropriate regulations, reflect best practices, and are tied to high-quality service delivery in the event of staff absences or vacancies.
  • 4.4 Describes the plan to provide opportunities for qualified parents and other community residents to seek employment and how these opportunities will be designed to improve the quality of the proposed program. The applicant explains how it will provide career development opportunities for professional, paraprofessional, and other staff.
  • 4.5 Describes a clear plan to evaluate job applicants, including existing grantee staff, to determine which applicants are most capable of contributing to the implementation of a high-quality, comprehensive program, including the implementation of a research-based curriculum aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning standards.
  • 4.6 Describes an ongoing strategy for professional development, peer support, supervision, ongoing observations, coaching and mentoring, and evaluation of staff and program managers, oriented to improving the skills, knowledge, effectiveness, and career opportunities of all employees. The application describes the process for how it will manage underperforming staff. The applicant also describes how it has used these strategies in the past, its past successes and challenges, and any modifications it would make in the context of implementing the Head Start program it is proposing.

5. Organizational Capacity and Governance

Maximum Points: 25

Two young boys with a baby

This section measures the applicant's ability to effectively implement and oversee operations that comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. The applicant describes its internal systems for communication, record keeping, reporting, and ongoing monitoring. The application provides evidence of past success in organizational management and successful governance.

The applicant must address how its management system supports its ability to direct change based on the ongoing collection and analysis of relevant data (child assessment, community assessment, assessment of professional development and training, ongoing monitoring, and other sources).

Applicants must also demonstrate capacity to effectively implement a system of governance, taking into account the ultimate responsibility of the agency Board as well as the crucial role of the Policy Council and parents in decision making. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

The application describes mechanisms for ensuring fiscal integrity, timely implementation of services, and strong coordination with broader early childhood systems.

Please see Section V.1. Criteria for program-specific requirements that are the critical elements that will be evaluated in the application review process.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 5.1 Provides a plan identifying the capacity of the applicant's senior executive managers and governing board to: (1) exercise effective oversight of program operations and accountability for federal funds; (2) include the Policy Council in the planning and decision-making process; (3) ensure representation of the diverse community served; (4) set and monitor overall agency priorities and operational systems; and (5) conduct community assessment, annual self-assessments, ongoing monitoring, and outcome-based evaluations.
  • 5.2 Explains how its organizational oversight meets the program governance requirements established in Section 642(c) of the Head Start Act. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
  • 5.3 Demonstrates the existence of management systems for program planning, internal and external communication, recordkeeping, issuance of internal and external reports, and program self-assessment and monitoring.
  • 5.4 Demonstrates an ability to provide effective financial management in operating a Head Start program based on experience.
  • 5.5 If proposing to delegate all or part of its responsibility for operating a Head Start program, the application identifies proposed delegate agencies, including the communities in which they will operate, the number of children served, and their proposed program option(s). If the applicant is not proposing to delegate with other agencies, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 5.6 Describes plans to meet or exceed state and local requirements concerning licensing for facilities and to be accessible by state and local authorities for purposes of monitoring and ensuring compliance, unless state or local laws prohibit such access. Where facilities are not available, the application provides a plan to acquire facilities in accordance with the requirements provided for the purchase, construction, and major renovation of facilities described in 45 CFR Part 1309.
  • 5.7 Demonstrates the ability to provide timely and efficient implementation of all program components and services immediately upon award, including planning during the transition period, the availability of classroom space and facilities that meets applicable state and local licensing standards, the ability to provide necessary transportation, and the ability to recruit eligible children and families.
  • 5.8 Provides plans to coordinate with other state programs and to participate in state systems of early childhood development, including the QRIS or the state equivalent. If the applicant participates in QRIS, includes rating. If applicable, the applicant explains why it does not participate if there is a QRIS in its geographic area.

6. Budget and Budget Justification

Maximum Points: 15

All applicants are required to submit a project budget and budget justification with their application.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 6.1 Demonstrates that funds are budgeted to provide all required comprehensive Head Start services to eligible children and families in a cost-effective manner as indicated in the application narrative.
  • 6.2 Demonstrates that start-up/pre-award costs, if proposed, are justified, reasonable, and applicable based on the applicant's proposed Head Start program. Start-up/pre-award costs may include: 1) ensuring that proposed facilities comply with state and local requirements and are adequately equipped, 2) purchasing classroom equipment and supplies, and/or 3) conducting staff background checks. If the applicant is not requesting start-up/pre-award costs, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 6.3 Demonstrates that the applicant will contribute the required non-federal share/match of the total project cost using allowable sources. Identifies each source of non-federal share match, including the estimated amount per source and the valuation methodology.

7. Bonus Points

Maximum Points: 10

7.1 In the interest of ensuring a robust competition for high-quality, comprehensive early care and education service providers, ACF is awarding bonus points to applicant organizations that do not have agreements that prohibit other entities from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on their own behalf or that impose a penalty on any entity for making such application. Applicants that wish to receive the bonus points must include in the appendices of their applications the following signed statement, "On behalf of (organization), I, (name), attest that (organization) does not have a non-compete or other agreement with any entity, at the time this application is submitted, which prohibits the entity from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on its own behalf or imposes a penalty on that entity for making such application." The statement must be signed by the person who is authorized to sign the application on behalf of the applicant.

PHASE TWO

Phase Two is a financial review that will be performed by financial experts contracted by ACF. This review will be used to determine risk and whether an applicant should be considered as Low (low-to-no risk), Moderate (some minor deficiencies are determined), or High (high risk).

This review will not change the Phase One scores determined by the objective review panel, and points will not be assessed, but the Phase Two review will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase Two financial review.

The financial review of Head Start applicants serves to determine the financial capabilities of an applicant based on information provided in the application package, including submitted financial statements adhering to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and/or audit reports or statements from Certified Public Accountants, and A-133 compliance audits.

Section 1: Financial Capability ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to sustain operations and perform the planned program. The contracted financial experts will assess an applicant's financial capability based on the applicant's financial statements. Their assessment will cover a variety of criteria primarily focusing on unrestricted net assets (or retained earnings, as applicable), financial statement ratios, access to commercial credit facilities, and diversity of funding sources.

Section 2: Financial Management Systems ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to properly account for and administer federal funds. The contracted financial experts will assess the applicant's accounting policies and procedures. In addition, the financial experts will assess the applicant's ability to comply with the types of compliance requirements outlined in 45 CFR Part 74 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92 (for state and local governments).

Section 3: Additional Information ― Collects information on the applicants' Single Audit opinions (if applicable) and financial statements for the most recent fiscal year.

In response to Section 2, applicants must address all of the following elements in a narrative response.

Internal Control, Compliance, and Ethical Values

Young child's hands on a book

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe its policies and procedures to achieve compliance with all post-award requirements (45 CFR Part 74.22 through 45 CFR Part 74.62 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92.20 through 45 CFR 92.44 (for state and local governments)).
  • Describe its ability to meet the 15 percent limitation on development and administrative costs (45 CFR § 1301.32).
  • Describe its commitment to high ethical standards in relation to written policies and programs inherent within the organization.

Accounting Policies and Procedures

  • Describe how it utilizes a logical and consistent method for the allocation of indirect costs to intermediate and final cost objectives.
  • If the applicant has an indirect rate agreement:
  • Child's drawing of flowers and a bee
    • Reference the indirect rate agreements.
    • Identify the process for the collection of indirect costs, calculation of rate(s), and the application or allocation of costs to specific grants.
  • If the applicant utilizes the direct allocation method:
    • Describe its process for identifying and prorating joint costs using a base that is most appropriate to the particular element of cost that is being prorated.
  • Describe how Head Start resources will be combined with other early childhood funding sources, if applicable, and describe how it will properly allocate costs.

Additional Information

Each applicant shall:

  • State whether the applicant received a Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion in the past two years for any federal grant program.
  • State whether or not the materially non-compliant finding(s), which caused the Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion, have been resolved.

Early Head Start Criteria

Applications competing for financial assistance will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application proposal addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, particularly in the project description and budget justification, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

The review of applications is structured in two phases. Phase One will result in a numerical score as evaluated by a panel of non-federal reviewers. Phase Two criteria will not be used by reviewers to score applications, but will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase One and Phase Two reviews.

PHASE ONE

1. Demonstration of Need for Child Development and Health Services: Location, Population, and Service Delivery Options

Maximum Points: 20

Close up of mother and baby smiling

The application must identify the specific geographic location(s) to be served and provide data about why that geographic area is in high need of Early Head Start services, such as the number of eligible infants and toddlers, the extent to which infants and toddlers from low-income families are not meeting school readiness goals, the number of families in extreme poverty, jobless rates, high incidents of community health problems or violence, or other similar factors. Applicants should leverage existing needs assessment and school readiness data for the proposed service area where appropriate and applicable, and if necessary, applications can include other methods to collect data on the need for services such as informal surveys, community meetings, questionnaires, and interviews.

The application must describe proposed program options. This includes how many infants, toddlers, and pregnant women will be served; the types of Early Head Start services the applicant will provide; as well as the number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits that meet the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. Applications that propose the home-based option must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations. The application must describe how the Early Head Start program will partner with other programs or services in the community to meet the needs of low-income families to be served.

Early Head Start is designed to increase the number of low-income infants and toddlers receiving high-quality, comprehensive early education services that help facilitate healthy development, including physical and social/emotional development, and prepare them for eventual school success. To meet this goal, it is critical that Early Head Start funds awarded through this FOA do not supplant existing services. Thus, an entity receiving an Early Head Start grant must: 1) expand the number of infants, toddlers, and pregnant women it is serving relative to the number it would serve in the absence of the grant; and/or 2) improve the services provided to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women it would serve in the absence of the grant. In this section, applicants must describe how the number of infants, toddlers, and pregnant women served and the type of services received would be affected if the applicant is awarded a grant to implement the proposed set of services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Pregnant woman
  • 1.1. Clearly identifies the precise geographic location and boundaries of the area the applicant proposes to serve. The applicant must use information from its community assessment to define the area(s) of greatest need and show how it will direct Early Head Start resources to these areas.
  • 1.2. Provides a detailed description of its plan to provide child development services for the highest need Early Head Start eligible pregnant women and children and their families. This plan must include education, health, nutrition, social, and family support services, and other service needs of these children, including the special populations the applicant proposes to serve (children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children and pregnant women, children in foster care, etc.). The plan must include the number of eligible children and pregnant women to be served by geographic location and by program option, and the estimated number of children needing full-day and full-year care. The applicant must describe its procedures to identify children with disabilities.
  • 1.3. Demonstrates community engagement in the geographic locations proposed by the applicant in order to improve the efficiency of service delivery, increase access to needed services, and prevent duplication. Demonstration of community engagement may include memoranda of understanding that provide commitments of exchange of services, resource support, referrals, or other agreements.
  • 1.4. Justifies the program option or options as most appropriate for the communities in which the applicant proposes to provide services (e.g., full-day center-based, home-based, family child care, or combination option, including the number of children to be served by each option). If proposing to serve in multiple communities, the applicant specifies the number of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers to be served in each community. The application specifies how the proposed number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits meets the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. Early Head Start programs must provide a minimum of 48 weeks per year to ensure the continuity of services that best supports positive outcomes. Applicants proposing the home-based option must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations. The applicant's proposed program option(s) support(s) the needs of children and families as described in response to the evaluation criteria listed in this section. Applicants proposing to enroll pregnant women must explain how the services will support the needs of expectant families.
  • 1.5. Describes how infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and their families will be recruited and selected for the program to ensure that services will be provided to those who have the most serious need for Early Head Start services. The applicant describes how the program will ensure that not less than 10 percent of the total number of infants and toddlers actually enrolled will be children with disabilities.
  • 1.6. Clearly states how many children the applicant is currently serving as a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, delegate agency or partner to a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, or in other early education or related programs. Clearly states how many Head Start and/or Early Head Start children the applicant would serve if awarded this grant.

2. Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children

Maximum Points: 40

Early Head Start is designed to help children start preschool, and eventually school, ready to succeed. School readiness requires that children are cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally prepared to continue developing and learning. Early Head Start is governed by Program Performance Standards that define the scope of services necessary to support infant and toddler development across all domains. The application must demonstrate the capacity to implement and sustain comprehensive, high-quality, individualized educational, health, mental health, nutritional, oral health, and other social services to infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and their families that provide children with the foundations of school readiness. To this end, the applicants must describe how they will implement program components.

Mother reading to toddler

The application must name the curriculum or curricula that will be used, describe why that curriculum/curricula was selected, and present the evidence basis that the curriculum/curricula effectively supports infant and toddler development that is foundational to school readiness. The application also must include information about how the applicant will meet the health, nutrition, and family engagement needs of infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. Applicants must describe how service effectiveness and quality will be measured, monitored, and improved upon over time. The applicant must show how it will use child assessment data and other program data to individualize services and learning opportunities for children and to inform continuous program improvement; how they will provide ongoing professional development, including regular observation and feedback; how they will engage parents in their roles as teachers and advocates for their infants and toddlers; and how they will partner with preschools, including Head Start and local education agencies, child care programs, and other programs serving young children and their families to create continuity for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women across systems.

The application must also describe how the applicant will meet the unique needs of special populations, including infants and toddlers with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless infants, toddlers, and pregnant women, working families, and children in foster care.

The application will be evaluated on the degree to which the proposed program will meet the comprehensive needs of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers in the community, including the special populations described in the previous paragraph. The applicant must provide information about why it made various programmatic choices, including, where applicable, how its choices reflect the best practices in the field as well as the unique needs of the community it will serve. In addition, the application must propose the coordination of services within a community that support transitions for children and families in accordance with 45 CFR § 1304.41 of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

If applicable, the application provides information about proposed delegate agencies, how those delegate agencies were chosen, and how the grantee's oversight will ensure the delegate agencies implement high-quality programs that adhere to the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 2.1. Provides a plan to implement a high-quality, comprehensive program for the population the applicant proposes to serve, using a curriculum and teaching practices that promote progress toward infant and toddler school readiness goals and:
    • Are based on scientifically valid research
    • Are developmentally appropriate for infants and toddlers
    • Provide continuity of care to promote attachment and a secure foundation for learning in all program options. Explains an approach to staffing continuity across the days, months, and years of service
    • Are aligned with all relevant state early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers, as appropriate
  • 2.2. The application specifies the name of the curriculum or curricula proposed to be used, why the curriculum was chosen, and the evidence supporting how the curriculum is tied to outcomes for children. The applicant discusses what tools it will use to support domains that the selected curriculum does not support.
  • 2.3. Describes the process for establishing and measuring school readiness goals, including the plans to address the following domains, as appropriate for the age and developmental needs of enrolled infants and toddlers:
  • Baby on a scale
    • Language and literacy development
    • Cognition and general knowledge
    • Approaches toward learning
    • Physical well-being and motor development
    • Social and emotional development

    Goals must reflect the ages of infants and toddlers who will be participating in the program and must be culturally and linguistically appropriate. The application explains the extent to which goals were or will be established in consultation with the parents of infants and toddlers participating in the program, and in alignment with state early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers, as appropriate.

  • 2.4. Describes how the applicant will meet the needs of infants and toddlers with disabilities, including procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist the infants and toddlers in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.5. Describes how the applicant will meet the unique needs of its targeted population, including infants and toddlers in the child welfare system, dual language learners, and homeless infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. The application describes procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist these infants and toddlers in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.6. Describes how the applicant will meet the health, mental health, nutritional, and oral health needs of infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. The application describes the system for health screening and services that will ensure infants and toddlers are accurately referred for necessary follow-up evaluation and treatment within timeframes specified by Head Start regulations. Screening and services for identified needs include, at a minimum, health, sensory, developmental, and oral health, and may be provided directly or through community partner providers.
  • 2.7. If proposing center-based or family child care services, the applicant describes a plan for observing teacher practice, including teacher-child interactions. If proposing home-based services, the applicant describes a plan for observing home visitor practice, including interactions with the family and child, and supporting the parents in their role as the child’s primary caregiver/teacher. For all program services, the applicant describes using this information to inform professional development and practice improvements. The application includes the name of any instruments to be used.
  • 2.8. Describes a plan to use child assessment data to individualize the instruction and learning for each child and, as necessary, refer for additional evaluation and intervention, and to aggregate and analyze child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period) and use that analysis in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals, to inform parents and the community of results, and to direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design, and other program decisions, in accordance with 45 CFR § 1307.3(b)(2). Applicants are reminded that assessment of infant and toddler development must be developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate and most often involves observation.
  • 2.9. Describes a plan to coordinate with public and private entities that are willing to commit resources to assist the Early Head Start program in providing high-quality child health and developmental services and program management services. Such partnerships must include a plan to coordinate the proposed Early Head Start program with other child care and preschool programs, state pre-kindergarten programs, programs under Part C and Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and with the educational programs that children to be served will enter upon leaving Early Head Start.
  • 2.10. Describes the system of how the applicant will deliver services to enrolled pregnant women post-pregnancy; and how the newborn infant and family will transition into the appropriate program option at the appropriate time; and how the program will support transition from Early Head Start to Head Start or other community-based programs. Additionally, the application describes how the program will support transitions within the Early Head Start program, which might include a child moving from one center or program option to another, adjusting to staff turnover, moving from one classroom to the next, or moving to new grantees in different communities as families move for economic or other reasons. The application describes how the applicant will ensure that infants, toddlers, and their families participating in the Early Head Start program will have the opportunity to receive Head Start or other appropriate preschool services for which they are eligible through the age of mandatory school attendance.
  • 2.11. Provides a plan to facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents (including mothers, fathers, grandparents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers, as appropriate) in activities (at home and, if practicable, at the location of the Early Head Start program) designed to help them become full partners in the education of their children. Such engagement includes participation in the conduct of the program, leadership opportunities, support of the child's development and health, support for the parent-child relationship, opportunities for employment, and other paths to improved financial well-being. The application identifies and addresses barriers to parent participation, such as lack of transportation access or need for child care.
  • 2.12. Explains the plan to implement the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework and to offer family literacy and parenting skills training using evidence-based curricula and approaches either directly or through referral to local entities, public and school libraries, and entities carrying out family support programs. The application includes a plan to offer (either directly or through referrals) other support for families struggling with mental health challenges, domestic violence, homelessness, or substance abuse.

3. Past Performance

Maximum Points: 20

Father holding and kissing a smiling baby girl

The applicant provides evidence of organizational experience (including the experience of key leaders in the organization) that supports its ability to implement a comprehensive child development program for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. The applicant must demonstrate a high-functioning program with a competent management team and effective systems with demonstrated capacity to use data to inform continuous improvement in such areas as professional development, instructional practices, and family engagement.

The application must provide detailed information about how the applicant's past experience in early education (or related fields) and in communities similar to the targeted community, will enable them to operate a successful Early Head Start program. The application must provide evidence of the quality of the early education programs or related programs they have operated in the past. The applicant must demonstrate their capacity and experience serving pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschool-age children. The applicant must provide evidence of the quality of services to be provided based on licensing, accreditation, ratings, or independent evaluations of programs, outcome data for children, or other information provided.

The application must also provide information about the past experience of organizations with which it proposes to delegate all or part of its services to infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and families. Please note that if the applicant is a current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantee, ACF will retrieve and review the grantee's last two OHS triennial monitoring reports, plus any other OHS monitoring reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA.

The application must explain the ways (if any) in which their past experience ― or the past experience of any delegate agencies ― differs from operating an Early Head Start program, both generally and as compared to the program the applicant is proposing to implement. The applicant must discuss how it will address these differences and succeed in providing effective, high-quality, comprehensive Early Head Start services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 3.1 Demonstrates how the applicant's history and experience, based on past performance providing high-quality early education or other related programs, support its ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women of the size, complexity, and scope of their proposed program. Reviewers will evaluate evidence of experience, such as, but not limited to:
    • Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating
    • Record of high performance in the early primary grades by children formerly enrolled in the program
    • Evidence from use of teacher-child interaction rating system
    • Evidence of successful staff development system leading to highly qualified staff
    • Evidence of high level of success improving family self-sufficiency

    Applicants that serve or have served as delegate agencies to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must provide documentation of their past performance.

  • 3.2 Documents how the professional experience of the applicant's proposed management team (executive director, program director, managers), based on past performance providing comprehensive, high-quality early care and education, demonstrates an ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project of this size, complexity, and scope within the service area.
  • 3.3 Explains how the applicant's past performance and experience will inform its administration of the Early Head Start program being proposed and will help ensure a high-quality Early Head Start program. To the degree that the applicant is currently operating a program that differs from the Early Head Start program being proposed ― such as differences in the target population, the set of services provided, the structure of the program (the hours, days, or weeks of operation), the mechanisms for quality assurance and improvement, the early learning standards to be used, and the performance measurement system ― the applicant acknowledges these differences and explains how it will successfully adapt to the differences between its current program and the proposed program.
  • 3.4 Applicants that are current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantees must include a description of any repeat violations, such as deficiencies, areas of non-compliance, and/or audit findings. These repeat violations should represent findings from the last two OHS triennial monitoring reports plus any other OHS monitoring reports and any audit reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA. Applicants must describe the actions they have taken to address any repeat violations. If the applicant does not have repeat violations, this criterion is not applicable.

4. Staffing and Supporting a Strong Early Learning Workforce

Maximum Points: 20

Father holding a laughing baby

The application must describe the qualifications and experience of the applicant staff in planning, organizing, and providing comprehensive child development services at the community level. The application must address: (1) how the applicant will facilitate strong educator-child relationships that support infant and toddler development; (2) how it will ensure that staff are prepared for and supported in implementing evidence-based instructional practices that are individualized based on the ongoing assessment of each child to support positive child outcomes; and (3) how it will ensure that all staff will successfully partner with families in supporting children's development. The application also must describe how the applicant will attract and retain qualified staff; how it will support staff through the regular provision of feedback, supervision, coaching, and other mechanisms; and how it will assess staff performance and address under-performing staff.

The application also must describe the management staff's knowledge of Head Start's broad requirements and how it will ensure that all program staff understand how those standards are applicable to them.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Little boy hugging his mother, who is pregnant
  • 4.1 Documents that the proposed program director and proposed key staff are qualified and knowledgeable about administering complex social service programs or early education services. The applicant describes its key staff's major functions and responsibilities in the narrative and includes their resumes in the appendix.
  • 4.2 Provides a clear plan to attract and retain qualified staff with the ability to implement a research-based curriculum, aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning guidelines (as appropriate), effective instructional strategies, and a high-quality, comprehensive program.
  • 4.3 Demonstrates that employees of the agency will meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for staff qualifications set in Section 645A(h) for Early Head Start. The applicant provides documentation showing that all center-based Early Head Start teachers have an Infant Toddler Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and have been trained (or have equivalent coursework) in early childhood development with a focus on infant and toddler development. If applicable, the applicant describes how it will hire Early Head Start home visiting staff qualified or trained to conduct home visits that include the full range of comprehensive Early Head Start services.
  • 4.4 Describes the plan to maintain child-to-teacher, home visitor, or family child care provider ratios and family service worker caseloads that comply with appropriate regulations, reflect best practices, and are tied to high-quality service delivery in the event of staff absences or vacancies.
  • 4.5 Describes the plan to provide opportunities for qualified parents and other community residents to seek employment and how these opportunities will be designed to improve the quality of the proposed program. The applicant explains how it will provide career development opportunities for professional, paraprofessional, and other staff.
  • 4.6 Describes a clear plan to evaluate job applicants, including existing grantee staff, to determine which applicants are most capable of contributing to the implementation of a high-quality, comprehensive program, including the implementation of a research-based curriculum aligned with state early learning guidelines, as appropriate.
  • 4.7 Describes an ongoing strategy for professional development, peer support, supervision, ongoing observations, coaching and mentoring, and evaluation of staff and program managers, oriented to improving the skills, knowledge, effectiveness, and career opportunities of all employees. The application describes the process for how it will manage underperforming staff. The applicant also describes how it has used these strategies in the past, its past successes and challenges, and any modifications it would make in the context of implementing the Early Head Start program it is proposing.

5. Organizational Capacity and Governance

Maximum Points: 25

Adult holding hand of a baby

This section measures the applicant's ability to effectively implement and oversee operations that comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. The applicant describes its internal systems for communication, record keeping, reporting, and ongoing monitoring. The application provides evidence of past success in organizational management and successful governance.

The applicant must address how its management system supports its ability to direct change based on the ongoing collection and analysis of relevant data (child assessment, community assessment, assessment of professional development and training, ongoing monitoring, and other sources).

Applicants must also demonstrate capacity to effectively implement a system of governance, taking into account the ultimate responsibility of the agency Board as well as the crucial role of the Policy Council and parents in decision making. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

The application describes mechanisms for ensuring fiscal integrity, timely implementation of services, and strong coordination with broader early childhood systems.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 5.1 Provides a plan identifying the capacity of the applicant's senior executive managers and governing board to: (1) exercise effective oversight of program operations and accountability for federal funds; (2) include the Policy Council in the planning and decision-making process; (3) ensure representation of the diverse community served; (4) set and monitor overall agency priorities and operational systems; and (5) conduct community assessment, annual self-assessments, ongoing monitoring, and outcome-based evaluations.
  • 5.2 Explains how its organizational oversight meets the program governance requirements established in Section 642(c) of the Head Start Act. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
  • 5.3 Demonstrates the existence of management systems for program planning, internal and external communication, recordkeeping, issuance of internal and external reports, and program self-assessment and monitoring.
  • 5.4 Demonstrates an ability to provide effective financial management in operating an Early Head Start program based on experience.
  • 5.5 If proposing to delegate all or part of its responsibility for operating an Early Head Start program, the application identifies proposed delegate agencies, including the communities in which they will operate, the number of children they will serve, and their proposed program option(s). If the applicant is not proposing to delegate with other agencies, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 5.6 Describes plans to meet or exceed state and local requirements concerning licensing for facilities and to be accessible by state and local authorities for purposes of monitoring and ensuring compliance, unless state or local laws prohibit such access. Where facilities are not available, the application provides a plan to acquire facilities in accordance with the requirements provided for the purchase, construction, and major renovation of facilities described in 45 CFR Part 1309.
  • 5.7 Demonstrates the ability to provide timely and efficient implementation of all program components and services immediately upon award, including planning during the transition period; the availability of classroom space and facilities that meets applicable state and local licensing standards; the ability to provide necessary transportation; and the ability to recruit eligible infants, toddlers, and their families.
  • 5.8 Provides plans to coordinate with other state programs and to participate in state systems of early childhood development, including the QRIS or the state equivalent. If the applicant participates in QRIS, includes rating. If applicable, the applicant explains why it does not participate if there is a QRIS in its geographic area.

6. Budget and Budget Justification

Maximum Points: 15

All applicants are required to submit a project budget and budget justification with their application.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

People meeting around a table with notebooks and papers
  • 6.1 Demonstrates that funds are budgeted to provide all required comprehensive Early Head Start services to eligible infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and their families in a cost-effective manner as indicated in the application narrative.
  • 6.2 Demonstrates that start-up/pre-award costs, if proposed, are justified, reasonable, and applicable based on the applicant's proposed Early Head Start program. Start-up/pre-award costs may include: 1) ensuring that proposed facilities comply with state and local requirements and are adequately equipped, 2) purchasing classroom equipment and supplies, and/or 3) conducting staff background checks. If the applicant is not requesting start-up/pre-award costs, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 6.3 Demonstrates that the applicant will contribute the required non-federal share/match of the total project cost using allowable sources. Identifies each source of non-federal share match, including the estimated amount per source and the valuation methodology.

7. Bonus Points

Maximum Points: 10

7.1 In the interest of ensuring a robust competition for high-quality, comprehensive early care and education service providers, ACF is awarding bonus points to applicant organizations that do not have agreements that prohibit other entities from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on their own behalf or that impose a penalty on any entity for making such application. Applicants that wish to receive the bonus points must include in the appendices of their applications the following signed statement, "On behalf of (organization), I, (name), attest that (organization) does not have a non-compete or other agreement with any entity, at the time this application is submitted, which prohibits the entity from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on its own behalf or imposes a penalty on that entity for making such application." The statement must be signed by the person who is authorized to sign the application on behalf of the applicant.

PHASE TWO

Phase Two is a financial review that will be performed by financial experts contracted by ACF. This review will be used to determine risk and whether an applicant should be considered as Low (low-to-no risk), Moderate (some minor deficiencies are determined), or High (high risk).

This review will not change the Phase One scores determined by the objective review panel, and points will not be assessed, but the Phase Two review will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase Two financial review.

The financial review of Head Start applicants serves to determine the financial capabilities of an applicant based on information provided in the application package, including submitted financial statements adhering to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and/or audit reports or statements from Certified Public Accountants, and A-133 compliance audits.

Section 1: Financial Capability ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to sustain operations and perform the planned program. The contracted financial experts will assess an applicant’s financial capability based on the applicant’s financial statements. Their assessment will cover a variety of criteria primarily focusing on unrestricted net assets (or retained earnings, as applicable), financial statement ratios, access to commercial credit facilities, and diversity of funding sources.

Section 2: Financial Management Systems ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to properly account for and administer federal funds. The contracted financial experts will assess the applicant's accounting policies and procedures. In addition, the financial experts will assess the applicant's ability to comply with the types of compliance requirements outlined in 45 CFR Part 74 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92 (for state and local governments).

Section 3: Additional Information ― Collects information on the applicants' Single Audit opinions (if applicable) and financial statements for the most recent fiscal year.

In response to Section 2, applicants must address all of the following elements in a narrative response.

Internal Control Compliance and Ethical Values

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe its policies and procedures to achieve compliance with all post-award requirements (45 CFR Part 74.22 through 45 CFR Part 74.62 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92.20 through 45 CFR 92.44 (for state and local governments)).
  • Describe its ability to meet the 15 percent limitation on development and administrative costs (45 CFR § 1301.32).
  • Describe its commitment to high ethical standards in relation to written policies and programs inherent within the organization.

Accounting Policies and Procedures

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe how it utilizes a logical and consistent method for the allocation of indirect costs to intermediate and final cost objectives.
  • If the applicant has an indirect rate agreement:
    • Reference the indirect rate agreements.
    • Identify the process for the collection of indirect costs, calculation of rate(s), and the application or allocation of costs to specific grants.
  • If the applicant utilizes the direct allocation method:
    • Describe its process for identifying and prorating joint costs using a base that is most appropriate to the particular element of cost that is being prorated.
  • Describe how Head Start resources will be combined with other early childhood funding sources, if applicable, and describe how it will properly allocate costs.

Additional Information

Each applicant shall:

  • State whether the applicant received a Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion in the past two years for any federal grant program.
  • State whether or not the materially non-compliant finding(s), which caused the Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion, have been resolved.

Birth to Five Criteria

Applications competing for financial assistance will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application proposal addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, particularly in the project description and budget justification, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

The review of applications is structured in two phases. Phase One will result in a numerical score as evaluated by a panel of non-federal reviewers. Phase Two criteria will not be used by reviewers to score applications, but will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase One and Phase Two reviews.

Applicants seeking funding for both Head Start and Early Head Start programs should describe in their application how the model of joint operation of Head Start and Early Head Start will be conducted in the community, as well as how the entity will manage both sets of services.

PHASE ONE

1. Demonstration of Need for Child Development and Health Services: Location, Population, and Service Delivery Options

Maximum Points: 20

Young child laying on a big red ball

The application must identify the specific geographic location(s) to be served and provide data about why that geographic area is in high need of early childhood education and family support services. Data provided must include the number of eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers; the availability and scope of other early childhood education services for low-income infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers and families in the proposed geographic area; the extent to which children from low-income families are not meeting school readiness goals; the number of families in extreme poverty; jobless rates; high incidents of community health problems; criminal justice involvement or violence; or other similar factors. Applicants should leverage existing needs assessment and school readiness data for the proposed service area where appropriate and applicable, and if necessary, applications can include other methods to collect data on the need for services such as informal surveys, community meetings, questionnaires, and interviews. The application should also provide descriptive information regarding the available early childhood education services for low-income infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families in the proposed geographic area.

Applicants must clearly justify how the needs of the community are best served by the proposed approach, including by clearly articulating the rationale for proposing an Early Head Start-only or Head Start-only program. The application must describe the program option(s) proposed for each age group to be served. This includes how many pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers will be served; the types of services the applicant will provide; as well as the number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits that meet the needs of families, including the role of child care partners.

Applications that propose the home-based option for any age group must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations for that subgroup. The application must describe how the proposed program will partner with other programs or services in the community to best meet the needs of low-income families to be served.

Head Start and Early Head Start are designed to increase the number of low-income pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers receiving high-quality, comprehensive early education services that help facilitate healthy development, including physical and social/emotional development, and prepare them for eventual school success. To meet this goal, it is critical that funds awarded through this FOA do not supplant existing services. Thus, an entity receiving this grant must: 1) expand the number of pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers it is serving relative to the number it would serve in the absence of the grant; and/or 2) improve the services provided to pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers it would serve in the absence of the grant. In this section, applicants must describe how the number of pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers served and the type of services received would be affected if the applicant is awarded a grant to implement the proposed set of services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 1.1. Clearly identifies the precise geographic location and boundaries of the area the applicant proposes to serve. The applicant must use information from its community assessment to define the area(s) of greatest need and show how it will direct Head Start and/or Early Head Start resources to these areas.
  • 1.2. Provides a detailed description of its plan to provide child development services for the highest need Head Start and/or Early Head Start eligible children and/or pregnant women and their families. This plan must include education, health, nutrition, social, and family support services, and other service needs of these children, including the special populations the applicant proposes to serve (children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children and/or pregnant women, children in foster care, etc.). The plan must include the number of eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers to be served by program type (Head Start or Early Head Start), by geographic location, and by program option. The plan must also include the estimated number of children needing full-day and full-year care. The applicant must describe its procedures to identify children with disabilities.
  • 1.3. Describes the rationale for which ages of children the applicant proposes to serve, demonstrating how the applicant will satisfy unmet demand. Provides an analysis of access to other early childhood education programs for each age group of children under 5 in the geographic area.
  • 1.4. Demonstrates community engagement in the geographic locations proposed by the applicant in order to improve the efficiency of service delivery, increase access to needed services, and prevent duplication. Demonstration of community engagement may include memoranda of understanding that provide commitments of exchange of services, resource support, referrals, or other agreements.
  • 1.5. Justifies the program option or options for each age group as most appropriate for the communities in which the applicant proposes to provide services (e.g., full-day center-based, home-based, family child care, or combination option, including the number of children to be served by each option). If proposing to serve in multiple communities, the applicant specifies the number of pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers to be served in each community. The application specifies how the proposed number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits meets the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. Applicants proposing the home-based option must include the proposed number of home visits and socializations for each age group(s) to be served. The applicant's proposed program option(s) support(s) the needs of infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers, and their families as described in response to the evaluation criteria listed above.
    • For applicants proposing an Early Head Start program: Programs must provide a minimum of 48 weeks per year for infants and toddlers to ensure the continuity of services that best supports positive outcomes. Applicants proposing to enroll pregnant women must explain how the services will support the needs of expectant families.
    • For applicants proposing a Head Start program: Applicants must propose a number of weeks per year for preschoolers that meets the Head Start requirements.
  • 1.6. Describes how pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers, and their families will be recruited and selected for the program to ensure that services will be provided to those who have the most serious need for these services. The applicant describes how the program will ensure that not less than 10 percent of the total number of children actually enrolled will be children with disabilities.
  • 1.7. Clearly states how many children the applicant is currently serving as a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, delegate agency or partner to a Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, or in other early education or related programs. Clearly states how many Head Start and/or Early Head Start children the applicant would serve if awarded this grant.

2. Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes to Promote School Readiness for Children

Maximum Points: 40

Early Head Start is designed to help infants and toddlers start preschool. Head Start is designed to help preschoolers start school ready to succeed. School readiness requires that children are cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally prepared to continue developing and learning. Both programs are governed by the Head Start Program Performance Standards that define the scope of services necessary to support children's development across all domains. The application must demonstrate the capacity to implement and sustain the comprehensive, high-quality, individualized educational, health, mental health, nutritional, oral health, and other social services to pregnant women, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families that prepare children to succeed in school. To this end, the applicants must describe how they will implement program components and, where applicable, describe separately for infants and toddlers and for preschoolers.

The application must name the curriculum or curricula that will be used, describe why that curriculum/curricula was selected, and present the evidence basis that the curriculum/curricula effectively improves school readiness (for preschoolers) or its developmental foundations (for infants and toddlers). The application also must include information about how the applicant will meet the health, nutrition, and family engagement needs for pregnant women and children of various ages. Applicants must describe how service effectiveness and quality will be measured, monitored, and improved upon over time. The applicant must show how it will use child assessment data and other program data to individualize services and learning opportunities for children and to inform continuous program improvement; how they will provide ongoing professional development, including regular observation and feedback; how they will engage parents in their roles as teachers and advocates for their children; and how they will partner with preschools, including Head Start, as well as child care programs, local education agencies, and other programs serving young children and their families to create continuity for young children and pregnant women across systems.

The application must also describe how the applicant will meet the unique needs of special populations reflective of the ages and groups proposed to be served, including children with disabilities, dual language learners, children and pregnant women experiencing homelessness, working families, and children in foster care.

The application will be evaluated on the degree to which the proposed program will meet the comprehensive needs of pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the community, including the special populations described above. The applicant must provide information about why it made various programmatic choices, including, where applicable, how its choices reflect the best practices in the field as well as the unique needs of the community it will serve. In addition, the application must propose the coordination of services within a community that support transitions for children and families in accordance with 45 CFR § 1304.41 of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

If applicable, the application provides information about proposed delegate agencies, how those delegate agencies were chosen, and how the grantee's oversight will ensure the delegate agencies implement high-quality programs that adhere to the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 2.1. Provides a plan to implement a high-quality, comprehensive program for the population the applicant proposes to serve, with specific attention to how the plan will be different based on the ages and needs of children and families eligible for services. The plan for a high-quality, comprehensive program includes using a curriculum or set of curricula and teaching practices that promote progress toward school readiness goals and that:
    • Are based on scientifically valid research
    • Are developmentally appropriate for all of the ages of children proposed to be served
    • Provide continuity of care to promote attachment and a secure foundation for learning in all program options. For infants and toddlers, explains an approach to staffing continuity across the days, months, and years of service
    • Are aligned with all relevant state early learning guidelines and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework for preschoolers
  • 2.2. The application specifies the name of the curriculum or curricula proposed to be used in different program options and for children of different ages, why the curriculum was chosen, and the evidence supporting how the curriculum is tied to outcomes for children.
  • 2.3. Discusses what tools it will use to support domains that the selected curriculum does not support. The application describes a process for establishing and measuring school readiness goals, including the plans to address the following domains, as appropriate for the age and developmental needs of enrolled children:
    • Language and literacy development
    • Cognition and general knowledge
    • Approaches toward learning
    • Physical well-being and motor development
    • Social and emotional development

    School readiness goals must reflect the ages of children that the applicant proposes to serve in the program and must be culturally and linguistically appropriate. The application explains the extent to which school readiness goals were or will be established in consultation with the parents of children who will be participating in the program. Additionally,

    Adult and child looking at a book
    • For applicants proposing an Early Head Start program: Infant and toddler school readiness goals must reflect the ages of children (birth to 3). The application explains the extent to which goals were or will be established in alignment with state early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers, as appropriate.
    • For applicants proposing a Head Start program: Preschool school readiness goals must reflect the ages of children 3 to 5, and align with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, state early learning guidelines, and the requirements and expectations of schools the children will attend after Head Start.
  • 2.4. Describes how the applicant will meet the needs of infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers with disabilities, including procedures to identify such participants, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist children in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.5. Describes how the applicant will meet the unique needs of its targeted population, including infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers in the child welfare system, dual language learners, homeless children, and pregnant women. The application describes procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist these infants and toddlers in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.6. Describes how the applicant will meet the health, mental health, nutritional, and oral health needs of pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers. The application describes the system for health screening and services that will ensure participants are accurately referred for necessary follow-up evaluation and treatment within time frames specified by Head Start regulations. Screening and services for identified needs include, at a minimum, health, sensory, developmental, and oral health, and may be provided directly or through community partner providers.
  • 2.7. If proposing center-based or family child care services, the applicant describes a plan for observing teacher practice, including teacher-child interactions. If proposing home-based services, the applicant describes a plan for observing home visitor practice, including interactions with the family and child, and supporting the parents in their role as the child’s primary caregiver/teacher. For all program services, the applicant describes using this information to inform professional development and practice improvements. The application includes the name of any instruments to be used.
  • 2.8. Specifies the name and process for selection of their assessment tool. The applicant describes a plan to use child assessment data to individualize the instruction and learning for each child and, as necessary, refer for additional evaluation and intervention; and to aggregate and analyze child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period); and to use that analysis in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals, to inform parents and the community of results, and to direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design, and other program decisions, in accordance with 45 CFR § 1307.3(b)(2). Applicants are reminded that assessment must be developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate.
  • 2.9. Describes a plan to coordinate with public and private entities that are willing to commit resources to assist the program in providing high-quality child health and developmental services and program management services. Such partnerships must include a plan to coordinate the proposed Head Start and/or Early Head Start program with other child care and preschool programs, state pre-Kindergarten programs, programs under Part C and Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and with the educational programs that children to be served will enter upon leaving Early Head Start or Head Start.
  • 2.10 For applicants proposing an Early Head Start program: Describes the system of how the applicant will deliver services to enrolled pregnant women post-pregnancy; how the newborn infant and family will transition into the appropriate program option at the appropriate time; how the program will support transition from Early Head Start to Head Start or other community-based programs; and how the program will support transitions from Head Start to public and community-based school settings in accordance with 45 CFR § 1304.41 of the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Additionally, the application describes how the program will support transitions within the Head Start and/or Early Head Start program, which might include a child moving from one center or program option to another, adjusting to staff turnover, moving from one classroom to the next, or moving to new grantees in different communities as families move for economic or other reasons.
  • 2.11 For applicants proposing an Early Head Start program: Describes how the applicant will ensure that infants, toddlers, and their families participating in the program will have the opportunity to receive Head Start or other appropriate preschool services for which they are eligible through the age of mandatory school attendance.
  • 2.12. Provides a plan to facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents (including mothers, fathers, grandparents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers, as appropriate) in activities (at home and, if practicable, at the location of the program) designed to help them become full partners in the education of their children. Such engagement includes participation in the conduct of the program, leadership opportunities, support of their child’s development and health, support for the parent-child relationship, opportunities for employment, and other paths to improved financial well-being. The application identifies and addresses barriers to parent participation, such as lack of transportation access or need for child care.
  • 2.13. Explains the plan to implement the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework and to offer family literacy and parenting skills training using evidence-based curricula and approaches, either directly or through referral to local entities, public and school libraries, and entities carrying out family support programs. The application includes a plan to offer (either directly or through referrals) other support for families struggling with mental health challenges, domestic violence, homelessness, or substance abuse.

3. Past Performance

Maximum Points: 20

Two Adult women talking and holding book

The applicant provides evidence of organizational experience (including the experience of key leaders in the organization) that supports its ability to implement a comprehensive child development program for pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Reviewers will evaluate the degree to which the application demonstrates a high-functioning program with a competent management team and effective systems with demonstrated capacity to use data to inform continuous improvement in such areas as professional development, instructional practices, and family engagement.

The application must provide detailed information about how the applicant's past experience in early education (or related fields) and in communities similar to the targeted community will enable them to operate a successful Head Start and/or Early Head Start program. The application must provide evidence of the quality of the early education programs or related programs they have operated in the past. The applicant must demonstrate their capacity and experience serving pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschool-age children. The applicant must provide evidence of the quality of services to be provided based on licensing, accreditation, ratings, or independent evaluations of programs, outcome data for children, or other information provided.

The application must also provide information about the past experience of organizations with which it proposes to delegate all or part of their services to any group of proposed participants (pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers) and their families. Please note that if the applicant is a current or former Head Start and/or Early Head Start grantee, ACF will retrieve and review the grantee's last two OHS triennial monitoring reports, plus any other OHS monitoring reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA.

The application must explain the ways (if any) in which their past experience ― or the past experience of any delegate agencies ― differs from operating a Head Start and/or Early Head Start program, both generally and as compared to the program(s) the applicant is proposing to implement. The applicant must discuss how it will address these differences and succeed in providing effective, high-quality, comprehensive Head Start and/or Early Head Start services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 3.1 Demonstrates how the applicant's history and experience, based on past performance providing high-quality early education or other related programs, support its ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project for pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers of the size, complexity, and scope of their proposed program. Reviewers will evaluate evidence of experience, such as, but not limited to:
    • Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating
    • Record of high performance in the early primary grades by children formerly enrolled in the program
    • Evidence from use of teacher-child interaction rating system
    • Evidence of successful staff development system leading to highly qualified staff
    • Evidence of high level of success improving family self-sufficiency

    Applicants that serve or have served as delegate agencies to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must provide documentation of their past performance.

  • 3.2 Documents how the professional experience of the applicant's proposed management team (executive director, program director, managers), based on past performance providing comprehensive, high-quality early care and education, demonstrates an ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project of this size, complexity, and scope within the service area.
  • 3.3 Explains how the applicant's past performance and experience will inform its administration of the Head Start and/or Early Head Start program being proposed and will help ensure a high-quality program. To the degree that the applicant is currently operating a program that differs from the Head Start and/or Early Head Start program being proposed ― such as differences in the target population, the set of services provided, the structure of the program (the hours, days, or weeks of operation), the ages of children served, the mechanisms for quality assurance and improvement, the early learning standards to be used, and the performance measurement system ― the applicant acknowledges these differences and explains how it will successfully adapt to the differences between its current program and the proposed program.
  • 3.4 Applicants that are current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantees must include a description of any repeat violations, such as deficiencies, areas of non-compliance, and/or audit findings. These repeat violations should represent findings from the last two OHS triennial monitoring reports plus any other OHS monitoring reports and any audit reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA. Applicants must describe the actions they have taken to address any repeat violations. If the applicant does not have repeat violations, this criterion is not applicable.

4. Staffing and Supporting a Strong Early Learning Workforce

Maximum Points: 20

Man talking on a phone

The application must describe the qualifications and experience of the applicant staff in planning, organizing, and providing comprehensive child development services at the community level. Applicants proposing a birth-to-five program must include staff with infant/toddler as well as preschool expertise in decision-making roles to ensure the needs of each age group will be addressed.

The application must address: (1) how the applicant will facilitate strong staff-child relationships that support the development of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers; (2) how it will ensure that staff are prepared for and supported in implementing evidence-based instructional practices that are individualized based on the ongoing assessment of each child to support positive child outcomes; and (3) how it will ensure that all staff will successfully partner with families in supporting children's development. The application also must describe how the applicant will attract and retain qualified staff, including through salary and benefits; how it will support staff through the regular provision of feedback, supervision, coaching, and other mechanisms; and how it will assess staff performance and address under-performing staff.

The application also must describe the management staff's knowledge of Head Start and/or Early Head Start's broad requirements and how it will ensure that all program staff understand how those standards are applicable to them.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 4.1 Documents that the proposed program director and proposed key staff are qualified and knowledgeable about administering complex social service programs or early education services. The applicant describes its key staff's major functions and responsibilities in the narrative and includes their resumes in the appendix.
  • 4.2 Provides a clear plan to attract and retain qualified staff with the ability to implement a research-based curriculum aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning guidelines (as appropriate), effective instructional strategies, and a high-quality, comprehensive program.
  • 4.3 For applicants proposing an Early Head Start program: Demonstrates that employees of the agency will meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for staff qualifications set in Section 645A(h) for Early Head Start. The applicant provides documentation showing that all center-based Early Head Start teachers have an Infant Toddler Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and have been trained (or have equivalent coursework) in early childhood development with a focus on infant and toddler development as required by Section 645A(h) of the Head Start Act. If applicable, the applicant describes how it will hire Early Head Start home visiting staff qualified or trained to conduct home visits that include the full range of comprehensive Early Head Start services.
  • 4.4 For applicants proposing a Head Start program: Describes how all employees in the Head Start center-based programs meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for staff qualifications set in Section 648A and what share of preschool classroom teachers are expected to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field.
  • Mother and child looking at book and pointing
    • For classroom teachers ― have: (a) an associate degree in early childhood education; (b) an associate degree in a related field and coursework equivalent to a major relating to early childhood education, with experience teaching preschool-age children; (c) a baccalaureate degree; or (d) has been admitted into the Teach For America program, passed a rigorous early childhood content exam such as the Praxis II, participated in a Teach For America summer training institute that includes teaching preschool children, and is receiving ongoing professional development and support from Teach For America's professional staff.
    • For assistant teachers ― have at least a CDA credential; be enrolled in a program leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree; or be enrolled in a CDA credential program to be completed within two years.
  • 4.5 Describes the plan to maintain child-to-teacher, home visitor, or family child care provider ratios and family service worker caseloads that comply with appropriate regulations given the varying ages of children served, reflect best practices, and are tied to high-quality service delivery in the event of staff absences or vacancies.
  • 4.6 Describes the plan to provide opportunities for qualified parents and other community residents to seek employment and how these opportunities will be designed to improve the quality of the proposed program. The applicant explains how it will provide career development opportunities for professional, paraprofessional, and other staff.
  • 4.7 Describes a clear plan to evaluate job applicants, including existing grantee staff, to determine which applicants are most capable of contributing to the implementation of a high-quality, comprehensive program, including the implementation of a research-based curriculum.
  • 4.8 Describes an ongoing strategy for professional development, peer support, supervision, ongoing observations, coaching and mentoring, and evaluation of staff and program managers, oriented to improving the skills, knowledge, effectiveness, and career opportunities of all employees. The applicant describes the process for how it will manage underperforming staff. The applicant also describes how it has used these strategies in the past, its past successes and challenges, and any modifications it will make in the context of implementing the Head Start and/or Early Head Start program it is proposing.

5. Organizational Capacity and Governance

Maximum Points: 25

Two women looking at papers

This section measures the applicant's ability to effectively implement and oversee operations that comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. The applicant describes its internal systems for communication, record keeping, reporting, and ongoing monitoring. The application provides evidence of past success in organizational management and successful governance. The applicant should also describe how its decision to serve pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschool-age children is based on the needs of the community and also considers the applicant's capacity and experience serving the relevant target populations. Applicants proposing a birth-to-five approach should include strategies and methods that ensure the varying and appropriate needs of children birth to 5 years of age.

The applicant must address how its management system supports its ability to direct change based on the ongoing collection and analysis of relevant data (child assessment, community assessment, assessment of professional development and training, ongoing monitoring, and other sources).

Applicants must also demonstrate capacity to effectively implement a system of governance, taking into account the ultimate responsibility of the agency Board as well as the crucial role of the Policy Council and parents in decision making. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

The application describes mechanisms for ensuring fiscal integrity, timely implementation of services, and strong coordination with broader early childhood systems.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 5.1 Provides a plan identifying the capacity of the applicant's senior executive managers and governing board to: (1) exercise effective oversight of program operations and accountability for federal funds; (2) include the Policy Council in the planning and decision-making process; (3) ensure representation of the diverse community served; (4) set and monitor overall agency priorities and operational systems; and (5) conduct community assessment, annual self-assessments, ongoing monitoring, and outcome-based evaluations.
  • 5.2 Explains how its organizational oversight meets the program governance requirements established in Section 642(c) of the Head Start Act. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
  • 5.3 Demonstrates the existence of management systems for program planning, internal and external communication, recordkeeping, issuance of internal and external reports, and program self-assessment and monitoring.
  • 5.4 Demonstrates an ability to provide effective financial management in operating a Head Start and/or Early Head Start program based on experience.
  • 5.5 If proposing to delegate all or part of its responsibility for operating a program with these funds, the application identifies the proposed delegate agencies, including the communities in which the applicant will operate, the number of children to be served by age of child, and their proposed program option(s). If the applicant is not proposing to delegate with other agencies, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 5.6 Describes plans to meet or exceed state and local requirements concerning licensing for facilities and to be accessible by state and local authorities for purposes of monitoring and ensuring compliance unless state or local laws prohibit such access. Where facilities are not available, the application provides a plan to acquire facilities in accordance with the requirements provided for the purchase, construction, and major renovation of facilities described in 45 CFR Part 1309.
  • 5.7 Demonstrates the ability to provide timely and efficient implementation of all program components and services immediately upon award, including planning during the transition period; the availability of classroom space and facilities that meet applicable state and local licensing standards for each age group; the ability to provide necessary transportation; and the ability to recruit eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, and their families.
  • 5.8 Provides plans to coordinate with other state programs and to participate in state systems of early childhood development, including the QRIS or the state equivalent. If the applicant participates in QRIS, it must include its rating. If applicable, the applicant explains why it does not participate if there is a QRIS in its geographic area.

6. Budget and Budget Justification

Maximum Points: 15

All applicants are required to submit a project budget and budget justification with their application.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 6.1 Demonstrates that funds are budgeted to provide all required comprehensive Head Start and/or Early Head Start services to eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers, and their families in a cost-effective manner as indicated in the application narrative. If proposing both Head Start and Early Head Start services, funds must be budgeted separately for Head Start and Early Head Start. The applicant's budget must also clearly distinguish the proposed base operating funds, training/technical assistance funds, total federal funds, and the applicant's non-federal share.
  • 6.2 Demonstrates that teaching staff salaries are commensurate with the degree qualifications and experience required in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Proposed staff salaries should reflect the data identified in the Wage and Fringe Benefits Comparability Survey.
  • 6.3 Demonstrates that start-up/pre-award costs, if proposed, are justified, reasonable, and applicable based on the applicant's proposed Head Start and/or Early Head Start program. Start-up/pre-award costs may include: 1) ensuring that proposed facilities comply with state and local requirements and are adequately equipped, 2) purchasing classroom equipment and supplies, and/or 3) conducting staff background checks. If the applicant is not requesting start-up/pre-award costs, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 6.4 Demonstrates that the applicant will contribute the required non-federal share/match of the total project cost using allowable sources. Identifies each source of non-federal share match, including the estimated amount per source and the valuation methodology.

7. Bonus Points

Maximum Points: 10

7.1 In the interest of ensuring a robust competition for high-quality, comprehensive early care and education service providers, ACF is awarding bonus points to applicant organizations that do not have agreements that prohibit other entities from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on their own behalf or that impose a penalty on any entity for making such application. Applicants that wish to receive the bonus points must include in the appendices of their applications the following signed statement, "On behalf of (organization), I, (name), attest that (organization) does not have a non-compete or other agreement with any entity, at the time this application is submitted, which prohibits the entity from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on its own behalf or imposes a penalty on that entity for making such application." The statement must be signed by the person who is authorized to sign the application on behalf of the applicant.

PHASE TWO

Phase Two is a financial review that will be performed by financial experts contracted by ACF. This review will be used to determine risk and whether an applicant should be considered as Low (low-to-no risk), Moderate (some minor deficiencies are determined), or High (high risk).

This review will not change the Phase One scores determined by the objective review panel, and points will not be assessed, but the Phase Two review will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase Two financial review.

The financial review of Head Start applicants serves to determine the financial capabilities of an applicant based on information provided in the application package, including submitted financial statements adhering to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and/or audit reports or statements from Certified Public Accountants, and A-133 compliance audits.

Section 1: Financial Capability ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to sustain operations and perform the planned program. The contracted financial experts will assess an applicant’s financial capability based on the applicant’s financial statements. Their assessment will cover a variety of criteria primarily focusing on unrestricted net assets (or retained earnings, as applicable), financial statement ratios, access to commercial credit facilities, and diversity of funding sources.

Section 2: Financial Management Systems ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to properly account for and administer federal funds. The contracted financial experts will assess the applicant's accounting policies and procedures. In addition, the financial experts will assess the applicant's ability to comply with the types of compliance requirements outlined in 45 CFR Part 74 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92 (for state and local governments).

Section 3: Additional Information ― Collects information on the applicants' Single Audit opinions (if applicable) and financial statements for the most recent fiscal year.

In response to Section 2, applicants must address all of the following elements in a narrative response.

Internal Control Compliance and Ethical Values

Each applicant shall:

Two toddlers playing with blocks
  • Describe its policies and procedures to achieve compliance with all post-award requirements (45 CFR Part 74.22 through 45 CFR Part 74.62 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92 .20 through 45 CFR 92.44 (for state and local governments)).
  • Describe its ability to meet the 15 percent limitation on development and administrative costs (45 CFR § 1301.32).
  • Describe its commitment to high ethical standards in relation to written policies and programs inherent within the organization.

Accounting Policies and Procedures

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe how it utilizes a logical and consistent method for the allocation of indirect costs to intermediate and final cost objectives.
  • If the applicant has an indirect rate agreement:
  • Adults writing on papers spread out on a table
    • Reference the indirect rate agreements.
    • Identify the process for the collection of indirect costs, calculation of rate(s), and the application or allocation of costs to specific grants.
  • If the applicant utilizes the direct allocation method:
    • Describe its process for identifying and prorating joint costs using a base that is most appropriate to the particular element of cost that is being prorated.
  • Describe how Head Start resources will be combined with other early childhood funding sources, if applicable, and describe how it will properly allocate costs.

Additional Information

Each applicant shall:

  • State whether the applicant received a Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion in the past two years for any federal grant program.
  • State whether or not the materially non-compliant finding(s), which caused the Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion, have been resolved.

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Criteria

Applications competing for financial assistance will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application proposal addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, particularly in the project description and budget justification, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

The review of applications under this FOA is structured in two phases. Phase One will result in a numerical score as evaluated by a panel of non-federal reviewers. Phase Two criteria will not be used by reviewers to score applications, but will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase One and Phase Two reviews.

PHASE ONE

1. Demonstration of Need for Child Development and Health Services: Location, Population, and Service Delivery Options

Maximum Points: 20

Eight young children laying on the grass and smiling

The application must identify the specific geographic location(s) to be served and provide data about why that geographic area is in high need of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start services, such as the number of eligible children of farm workers, other available options for children while parents are employed in migrant or seasonal agricultural work, the extent to which children from low-income families are not meeting school readiness goals, the number of families in extreme poverty, high incidents of community health problems or violence, or other similar factors. Applicants should leverage existing needs assessment and school readiness data for the proposed service area where appropriate and applicable, and if necessary, applications can include other methods to collect data on the need for services such as informal surveys, community meetings, questionnaires, and interviews.

Due to shifting agricultural work and farming needs, applicants may propose additional counties or service areas within a state (identified in the FOA) if the need for services for eligible migrant and seasonal families is identified and justified in such areas. Please note, additional proposed service areas should not overlap with areas where migrant and seasonal grantees are currently providing services.

The application must describe proposed program options. This includes how many children and/or pregnant women will be served; the types of Head Start services they will provide; as well as the number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits that meet the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. The applicant should describe its capacity to meet the family needs of agricultural workers who are affected by weather, type of crop, season (e.g., planting versus harvesting), and other factors. The application must describe how the Head Start program will partner with other programs or services in the community to meet the needs of low-income families to be served.

Head Start is designed to increase the number of low-income children receiving high-quality, comprehensive early education services that help facilitate healthy development, including physical and social/emotional development, and prepare them for school success. To meet this goal, it is critical that Head Start funds awarded through this FOA do not supplant existing services. Thus, an entity receiving a Head Start grant must: 1) expand the number of children it is serving relative to the number it would serve in the absence of the grant; and/or 2) improve the services provided to children it would serve in the absence of the grant. In this section, applicants must describe how the number of children served and the type of services received would be affected if the applicant is awarded a grant to implement the proposed set of services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Handprints in different colors
  • 1.1. Clearly identifies the precise geographic location and boundaries of the area the applicant proposes to serve. The applicant must use information from its community assessment to define the area(s) of greatest need of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start-eligible children and show how it will direct Migrant and Seasonal Head Start resources to these areas.
  • 1.2. Provides a detailed description of its plan to provide child development services for the highest need Migrant and Seasonal Head Start-eligible children and/or pregnant women and their families. The plan must describe the number of children, migrant and/or seasonal, that they propose to serve and the distinctive methods of service delivery for each, migrant and/or seasonal. This plan must include education, health, nutrition, social, and family support services, and other service needs of these children, including the special populations the applicant proposes to serve (children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children and/or pregnant women, children in foster care, etc.). The plan must include the number of eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers to be served by geographic location and by program option. The plan must also include the estimated number of children needing full-day and full-year care. The applicant must describe its procedures to identify children with disabilities.
  • 1.3. Describes the rationale for the ages and numbers of children the applicant proposes to serve, demonstrating how the applicant will prioritize unmet demand for migrant versus seasonal farmworker children. The applicant must demonstrate an understanding of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start eligibility based on age, income, migration, and agricultural work and describe how this understanding impacts the recruitment and selection process. The applicant must provide an analysis of access to other early childhood education programs for each age group of children under 5 in the geographic area.
  • 1.4. Demonstrates community engagement in the geographic locations proposed by the applicant in order to improve the efficiency of service delivery, increase access to needed services, and prevent duplication. Demonstration of community engagement may include memoranda of understanding that provide commitments of exchange of services, resource support, referrals, or other agreements.
  • 1.5. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs are expected to meet the comprehensive needs of enrolled children, including the number of hours per day and the number of weeks per season or year (depending on the crops) that families will be employed in agricultural work. The application specifies how the proposed number of hours per day, days per week, weeks per year, and home visits meets the needs of families, including the role of child care partners. The applicant's proposed program option(s) support(s) the needs of children and families as described in response to the evaluation criteria listed above. The applicant must specify how it will meet an adequate length of services for migrant families that arrive to work and live in agricultural communities. Applicants must propose a number of weeks per year that meets the Head Start requirements.
  • 1.6. Describes how migrant and seasonal infants, toddlers, preschoolers, pregnant women, and their families will be recruited and selected for the program to ensure that services will be provided to those who have the most serious need for these services. Children that move the most during the year because parents are searching for agricultural work must be given priority. The applicant describes how the program will ensure that not less than 10 percent of the total number of children actually enrolled will be children with disabilities.
  • 1.7. Clearly states how many children the applicant is currently serving as a Head Start, Early Head Start, and/or Migrant and Seasonal Head Start grantee; delegate agency or partner to a Head Start, Early Head Start, and/or Migrant and Seasonal Head Start grantee; or in other early education or related programs. Clearly states how many Head Start, Early Head Start, and/or Migrant and Seasonal Head Start children the applicant would serve if awarded this grant.

2. Achieving Early Learning and Development Outcomes to Promote School Readiness for Children

Maximum Points: 40

Three girls smiling in orange skirts

Head Start is designed to help children start school ready to succeed. School readiness requires that children are cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally prepared to continue to make progress as they enter Kindergarten. Head Start is governed by Program Performance Standards that define the scope of services necessary to support children's development across all domains. The application must demonstrate the capacity to implement and sustain a plan for providing comprehensive, high-quality, individualized educational, health, mental health, nutritional, oral health, and other social services to children and their families that prepare children to succeed in school. To this end, the applicants must describe how they will implement program components.

The application must name the curriculum or curricula that will be used, describe why that curriculum/curricula was selected, and present the evidence basis that the curriculum/curricula effectively improves school readiness. The application also must include information about how the applicant will meet the health, nutrition, and family engagement needs of children and enrolled pregnant women. Applicants must describe how service effectiveness and quality will be measured, monitored, and improved upon over time. The applicant must show how it will use child assessment data and other program data to individualize services and learning opportunities for children and to inform continuous program improvement; how they will provide ongoing professional development, including regular observation and feedback; how they will engage parents in their roles as teachers and advocates for their children; how they will partner with other Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs that may enroll children as families move to follow the agricultural work; and how they will partner with local education agencies, child care programs, and other programs serving young children and their families to create continuity for children and pregnant women across systems.

The application must also describe how the applicant will meet the unique needs of special populations, including children with disabilities, dual language learners, homeless children, children in working families, and children in foster care.

The application will be evaluated based on the degree to which the proposed program will meet the comprehensive needs of children whose parents are migrant or seasonal agricultural workers, including the special populations described above. The applicant must provide information about why it made various programmatic choices, including, where applicable, how its choices reflect the best practices in the field as well as the unique needs of the community it will serve. In addition, the application must propose the coordination of services within a community that support transitions for children and families in accordance with 45 CFR § 1304.41 of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

If applicable, the application provides information about proposed delegate agencies, how those delegate agencies were chosen, and how the grantee's oversight will ensure the delegate agencies implement high-quality programs that adhere to the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 2.1. Provides a plan to implement a high-quality, comprehensive program for the population the applicant proposes to serve that is culturally and linguistically responsive, with specific attention to how the plan will be different based on the ages and needs of children and families eligible for services. The plan for a high-quality, comprehensive program includes using a curriculum or set of curricula and teaching practices that promote progress toward school readiness goals and that:
  • Mother, father, and child
    • Are based on scientifically valid research
    • Are developmentally appropriate for all of the ages of children proposed to be served
    • Provide continuity of care to promote attachment and a secure foundation for learning in all program options. For infants and toddlers, explains an approach to staffing continuity across the days, months, and years of services
    • Are culturally and linguistically responsive
    • Support progress toward English acquisition while also supporting home language development
    • Are aligned with all relevant state early learning guidelines and, for preschoolers, the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework
  • 2.2. The application specifies the name of the curriculum or curricula proposed to be used in different program options and for children of different ages, why the curriculum was chosen, and the evidence supporting how the curriculum is tied to outcomes for children.
  • 2.3. Describes the process for establishing and measuring school readiness goals, including the plans to address the following domains, as appropriate for the age and developmental needs of enrolled children:
    • Language and literacy development
    • Cognition and general knowledge
    • Approaches toward learning
    • Physical well-being and motor development
    • Social and emotional development

    Infant, toddler, and preschool school readiness goals must reflect the ages of children and align with the five essential domains in the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework, state early learning guidelines, and the requirements and expectations of the schools the children will attend after Head Start. The application explains the extent to which school readiness goals were or will be established in consultation with the parents of children who will be participating in the program.

  • 2.4. Describes how the applicant will meet the needs of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities, including procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist children in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.5. Describes how the applicant will meet the unique needs of its targeted population, including infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the child welfare system, dual language learners, and homeless children. The application describes procedures to identify such children, plans to provide trained personnel, and plans to provide services to assist these infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in making meaningful progress in attaining age-appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities, and development.
  • 2.6. Describes how the applicant will meet the health, mental health, nutritional, and oral health needs of children. The application describes the system for health screening and services that will ensure children are accurately referred for necessary follow-up evaluation and treatment within timeframes specified by Head Start regulations and within the often very limited time the family may be enrolled before leaving in pursuit of work. Screening and services for identified needs include, at a minimum, health, sensory, developmental, and oral health, and may be provided directly or through community partner providers. If electing to enroll pregnant women, the applicant describes how it will work with them to meet prenatal health care, educational, nutritional, and other needs to maximize the opportunity for healthy babies and successful transition of the newborn infant to Migrant and Seasonal Head Start.
  • 2.7. If proposing center-based or family child care services, the applicant describes a plan for observing teacher practice, including teacher-child interactions. If proposing home-based services, the applicant describes a plan for observing home visitor practice, including interactions with the family and child, and supporting the parents in their role as the child’s primary caregiver/teacher. For all program services, the applicant describes using this information to inform professional development and practice improvements. The application includes the name of any instruments to be used.
  • 2.8. Describes a plan to use child assessment data to individualize the instruction and learning for each child and, as necessary, refer for additional evaluation and intervention, and to aggregate and analyze child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period) and to use that analysis in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals, to inform parents and the community of results, and to direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design, and other program decisions, in accordance with 45 CFR § 1307.3(b)(2). Applicants are reminded that assessments must be developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate.
  • 2.9. Describes a plan to coordinate with public and private entities that are willing to commit resources to assist the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program in providing high-quality child health and developmental services and program management services. Such partnerships must include a plan to coordinate the proposed Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program with other child care and preschool programs, state pre-kindergarten programs, programs under Part C and Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, with the educational programs that children to be served will enter upon leaving Migrant and Seasonal Head Start.
  • 2.10. Describes the system of how the program will support transitions from Migrant and Seasonal Head Start. The application will also describe how the program will support transitions within the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program, which might include adjusting to staff turnover, moving from one classroom to the next, or moving to grantees in different communities as families move for agricultural work or for economic or other reasons.
  • 2.11. Provides a plan to facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents (including mothers, fathers, grandparents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers, as appropriate) in activities (at home and, if practicable, at the location of the program) designed to help them become full partners in the education of their children. Such engagement includes participation in the conduct of the program, leadership opportunities, support of the child's development and health, support for the parent-child relationship, opportunities for employment, and other paths to improved financial well-being. The application identifies and addresses barriers to parent participation, such as lack of transportation access or need for child care.
  • 2.12. Explains the plan to implement the Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework and to offer family literacy and parenting skills training using evidence-based curricula and approaches either directly or through referral to local entities, public and school libraries, and entities carrying out family support programs. The application includes a plan to offer (either directly or through referrals) other support for families struggling with mental health challenges, domestic violence, homelessness, or substance abuse. Such support must meet the unique needs of families who may move frequently in pursuit of agricultural work.

3. Past Performance

Maximum Points: 20

Father laughing with daughter and son

The applicant provides evidence of organizational experience (including the experience of key leaders in the organization) that supports its ability to implement a comprehensive child development program. Reviewers will evaluate the degree to which the application demonstrates a high-functioning program with a competent management team and effective systems with demonstrated capacity to use data to inform continuous improvement in such areas as professional development, instructional practices, and family engagement.

The application must provide detailed information about how the applicant's past experience in early education (or related fields) and in communities similar to the targeted community, will enable them to operate a successful Head Start program. The application must provide evidence of the quality of the early education programs or related programs they have operated in the past. The applicant must demonstrate their capacity and experience serving pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and/or preschool-age children. The applicant must provide evidence of the quality of services to be provided based on licensing, accreditation, ratings, or independent evaluations of programs, outcome data for children, or other information provided.

The application must also provide information about the past experience of organizations with which it proposes to delegate all or part of its services to children and families. Please note that if the applicant is a current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantee, ACF will retrieve and review the grantee's last two OHS triennial monitoring reports, plus any other OHS monitoring reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA.

The application must explain the ways (if any) in which their past experience ― or the past experience of any delegate agencies ― differs from operating a Head Start program, both generally and as compared to the program the applicant is proposing to implement. The applicant must discuss how it will address these differences and succeed in providing effective, high-quality, comprehensive Head Start services.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 3.1 Demonstrates how the applicant's history and experience, based on past performance providing high-quality early education or other related programs, supports its ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers of the size, complexity, and scope of their proposed program. Reviewers will evaluate evidence of experience, such as, but not limited to:
    • Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating
    • Record of high performance in the early primary grades by children formerly enrolled in the program
    • Evidence from use of teacher-child interaction rating system
    • Evidence of successful staff development system leading to highly qualified staff
    • Evidence of high level of success improving family self-sufficiency
    • Evidence of successfully providing services to migrant and seasonal farmworker families

    Applicants that serve or have served as delegate agencies to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must provide documentation of their past performance.

  • 3.2 Documents how the professional experience of the applicant's proposed management team (executive director, program director, managers), based on past performance providing comprehensive, high-quality early care and education, demonstrates an ability to effectively and efficiently administer a project of this size, complexity, and scope within the service area.
  • 3.3 Explains how the applicant's past performance and experience will inform its administration of the MSHS program being proposed and will help ensure a high-quality Head Start program. To the degree that the applicant is currently operating a program that differs from the Head Start program being proposed ― such as differences in the target population, the set of services provided, the structure of the program (the hours, days, or weeks of operation), the mechanisms for quality assurance and improvement, the early learning standards to be used, and the performance measurement system ― the applicant acknowledges these differences and explains how it will successfully adapt to the differences between its current program and the proposed program.
  • 3.4 Applicants that are current or former Head Start or Early Head Start grantees must include a description of any repeat violations, such as deficiencies, areas of non-compliance, and/or audit findings. These repeat violations should represent findings from the last two OHS triennial monitoring reports plus any other OHS monitoring reports and any audit reports issued in the five years preceding the posting of this FOA. Applicants must describe the actions they have taken to address any repeat violations. If the applicant does not have repeat violations, this criterion is not applicable.

4. Staffing and Supporting a Strong Early Learning Workforce

Maximum Points: 20

Nine paintings of trees, flowers, houses and abstract shapes by young children

The application must describe the qualifications and experience of the applicant staff in planning, organizing, and providing comprehensive child development services at the community level. The application must address: (1) how the applicant will facilitate strong educator-child relationships that support children's development; (2) how it will ensure that staff are prepared for and supported in implementing evidence-based instructional practices that are individualized based on the ongoing assessment of each child to support positive child outcomes; and (3) how it will ensure that all staff will successfully partner with families in supporting children's development. The application also must describe how the applicant will attract and retain qualified staff; how it will support staff through the regular provision of feedback, supervision, coaching, and other mechanisms; and how it will assess staff performance and address under-performing staff.

The application also must describe the management staff's knowledge of Head Start's broad requirements and how it will ensure that all program staff understand how those standards are applicable to them.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 4.1 Documents that the proposed program director and proposed key staff are qualified and knowledgeable about administering complex social service programs or early education services. The applicant describes its key staff's major functions and responsibilities in the narrative and includes their resumes in the appendix.
  • 4.2 Provides a clear plan to attract and retain culturally and linguistically responsive and qualified staff with the ability to implement a research-based curriculum aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning guidelines (as appropriate), effective instructional strategies, and a high-quality comprehensive program.
  • 4.3 Demonstrates that employees of the agency will meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for infant and toddler staff qualifications set in Section 645A(h). The applicant provides documentation showing that all center-based infant and toddler teachers have an Infant Toddler Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and have been trained or have equivalent coursework in early childhood development with a focus on infant and toddler development as required by Section 645A(h) of the Head Start Act.
  • 4.4 Describes how all employees in the Head Start center-based programs meet the requirements of the Head Start Act for staff qualifications set in Section 648A and what share of preschool classroom teachers are expected to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field.
    • For classroom teachers: Have (a) an associate degree in early childhood education; (b) an associate degree in a related field and coursework equivalent to a major relating to early childhood education, with experience teaching preschool-age children; (c) a baccalaureate degree; or, (d) have been admitted into the Teach For America program, have passed a rigorous early childhood content exam, such as the Praxis II, have participated in a Teach For America summer training institute that includes teaching preschool children, and is receiving ongoing professional development and support from Teach For America's professional staff.
    • For assistant teachers: Have at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential; are enrolled in a program leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree; or are enrolled in a CDA credential program to be completed within two years.
  • 4.5 Describes the plan to maintain child-to-teacher or family child care provider ratios and family service worker caseloads that comply with appropriate regulations, reflect best practices, and are tied to high-quality service delivery in the event of staff absences or vacancies.
  • 4.6 Describes the plan to provide opportunities for qualified parents and other community residents to seek employment, and how these opportunities will be designed to improve the quality of the proposed program. The applicant explains how it will provide career development opportunities for professional, paraprofessional, and other staff.
  • 4.7 Describes a clear plan to evaluate job applicants, including existing grantee staff, to determine which applicants are most capable of contributing to the implementation of a high-quality, comprehensive program, including the implementation of a research-based curriculum aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and state early learning guidelines, as appropriate.
  • 4.8 Describes an ongoing strategy for professional development, peer support, supervision, ongoing observations, coaching and mentoring, and evaluation of staff and program managers oriented to improving the skills, knowledge, effectiveness, and career opportunities of all employees. The applicant describes the process for how it will manage underperforming staff. The applicant also describes how it has used these strategies in the past, its past successes and challenges, and any modifications it would make in the context of implementing the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program it is proposing.

5. Organizational Capacity and Governance

Maximum Points: 25

This section measures the applicant's ability to effectively implement and oversee operations that comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. The applicant describes its internal systems for communication, record keeping, reporting, and ongoing monitoring. The application provides evidence of past success in organizational management and successful governance.

The applicant must address how its management system supports its ability to direct change based on the ongoing collection and analysis of relevant data (child assessment, community assessment, assessment of professional development and training, ongoing monitoring, and other sources).

Applicants must also demonstrate capacity to effectively implement a system of governance, taking into account the ultimate responsibility of the agency Board as well as the crucial role of the Policy Council and parents in decision making. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.

The application describes mechanisms for ensuring fiscal integrity, timely implementation of services, and strong coordination with broader early childhood systems.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

Woman presenting information on flip chart to three other woman
  • 5.1 Provides a plan identifying the capacity of the applicant's senior executive managers and governing board to: (1) exercise effective oversight of program operations and accountability for federal funds; (2) include the Policy Council in the planning and decision-making process; (3) ensure representation of the diverse community served; (4) set and monitor overall agency priorities and operational systems; and (5) conduct community assessment, annual self-assessments, ongoing monitoring, and outcome-based evaluations.
  • 5.2 Explains how its organizational oversight meets the program governance requirements established in Section 642(c) of the Head Start Act. The applicant provides information about how its current governance structure would change (if at all) to meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
  • 5.3 Demonstrates the existence of management systems for program planning, internal and external communication, recordkeeping, issuance of internal and external reports, and program self-assessment and monitoring.
  • 5.4 Demonstrates an ability to provide effective financial management in operating a Head Start program, based on experience.
  • 5.5 If proposing to delegate all or part of its responsibility for operating a Head Start program, the application identifies proposed delegate agencies, including the communities in which they will operate, the number of children served, and their proposed program option(s). If the applicant is not proposing to delegate with other agencies, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 5.6 Describes plans to meet or exceed state and local requirements concerning licensing for facilities and to be accessible by state and local authorities for purposes of monitoring and ensuring compliance, unless state or local laws prohibit such access. Where facilities are not available, the application provides a plan to acquire facilities in accordance with the requirements provided for the purchase, construction, and major renovation of facilities described in 45 CFR Part 1309.
  • 5.7 Demonstrates the ability to provide timely and efficient implementation of all program components and services immediately upon award, including planning during the transition period, the availability of classroom space and facilities that meets applicable state and local licensing standards for each age group, the ability to provide necessary transportation; and the ability to recruit eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. The applicant includes an implementation timetable that expressly states when children will begin receiving MSHS services.
  • 5.8 Provides plans to coordinate with other state programs and to participate in state systems of early childhood development, including the QRIS or the state equivalent. If the applicant participates in QRIS, includes rating. If applicable, the applicant explains why it does not participate if there is a QRIS in its geographic area.

6. Budget and Budget Justification

Maximum Points: 15

All applicants are required to submit a project budget and budget justification with their application.

Reviewers will evaluate the extent to which the applicant:

  • 6.1 Demonstrates that funds are budgeted to provide all required comprehensive MSHS services to eligible infants, toddlers, preschoolers, pregnant women, and their families in a cost-effective manner as indicated in the application narrative.
  • 6.2 Demonstrates that start-up/pre-award costs, if proposed, are justified, reasonable, and applicable based on the applicant's proposed Head Start program. Start-up/pre-award costs may include: 1) ensuring that proposed facilities comply with state and local requirements and are adequately equipped, 2) purchasing classroom equipment and supplies, and/or 3) conducting staff background checks. If the applicant is not requesting start-up/pre-award costs, this criterion is not applicable.
  • 6.3 Demonstrates that the applicant will contribute the required non-federal share match of the total project cost using allowable sources. Identifies each source of non-federal share match, including the estimated amount per source and the valuation methodology.

7. Bonus Points

Maximum Points: 10

7.1 In the interest of ensuring a robust competition for high-quality, comprehensive early care and education service providers, ACF is awarding bonus points to applicant organizations that do not have agreements that prohibit other entities from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on their own behalf or that impose a penalty on any entity for making such application. Applicants that wish to receive the bonus points must include in the appendices of their applications the following signed statement, "On behalf of (organization), I, (name), attest that (organization) does not have a non-compete or other agreement with any entity, at the time this application is submitted, which prohibits the entity from applying for a Head Start or Early Head Start grant on its own behalf or imposes a penalty on that entity for making such application." The statement must be signed by the person who is authorized to sign the application on behalf of the applicant.

PHASE TWO

Phase Two is a financial review that will be performed by financial experts contracted by ACF. This review will be used to determine risk and whether an applicant should be considered as Low (low-to-no risk), Moderate (some minor deficiencies are determined), or High (high risk).

This review will not change the Phase One scores determined by the objective review panel, and points will not be assessed, but the Phase Two review will assist ACF in making award decisions. Please see Section V.2. Review and Selection Process for more information on the Phase Two financial review.

The financial review of Head Start applicants serves to determine the financial capabilities of an applicant based on information provided in the application package, including submitted financial statements adhering to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and/or audit reports or statements from Certified Public Accountants, and A-133 compliance audits.

Section 1: Financial Capability ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to sustain operations and perform the planned program. The contracted financial experts will assess an applicant’s financial capability based on the applicant’s financial statements. Their assessment will cover a variety of criteria primarily focusing on unrestricted net assets (or retained earnings, as applicable), financial statement ratios, access to commercial credit facilities, and diversity of funding sources.

Section 2: Financial Management Systems ― Evaluates the applicant's ability to properly account for and administer federal funds. The contracted financial experts will assess the applicant's accounting policies and procedures. In addition, the financial experts will assess the applicant's ability to comply with the types of compliance requirements outlined in 45 CFR Part 74 (for nonprofit organizations) and45 CFR Part 92 (for state and local governments).

Section 3: Additional Information ― Collects information on the applicants' Single Audit opinions (if applicable) and financial statements for the most recent fiscal year.

In response to Section 2, applicants must address all of the following elements in a narrative response.

Internal Control Compliance and Ethical Values

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe its policies and procedures to achieve compliance with all post-award requirements 45 CFR Part 74.22 through 45 CFR Part 74.62 (for nonprofit organizations) and 45 CFR Part 92.20 through 45 CFR 92.44 (for state and local governments).
  • Describe its ability to meet the 15 percent limitation on development and administrative costs (45 CFR § 1301.32).
  • Describe its commitment to high ethical standards in relation to written policies and programs inherent within the organization.

Accounting Policies and Procedures

Each applicant shall:

  • Describe how it utilizes a logical and consistent method for the allocation of indirect costs to intermediate and final cost objectives.
    • If the applicant has an indirect rate agreement:
      • Reference the indirect rate agreements.
      • Identify the process for the collection of indirect costs, calculation of rate(s), and the application or allocation of costs to specific grants.
    • If the applicant utilizes the direct allocation method:
      • Describe its process for identifying and prorating joint costs using a base that is most appropriate to the particular element of cost that is being prorated.
      • Describe how Head Start resources will be combined with other early childhood funding sources, if applicable, and describe how it will properly allocate costs.

Additional Information

Each applicant shall:

  • State whether the applicant received a Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion in the past two years for any federal grant program.
  • State whether or not the materially non-compliant finding(s), which caused the Qualified, Disclaimer, or Adverse audit opinion, have been resolved.

Last Reviewed: October 2014

Last Updated: June 24, 2015