COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Planning for Program-Wide Needs

There are a number of things Head Start programs can do while their communities are maintaining social distance. This section is regularly updated with the most relevant guidance and resources. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.

Hiring

A candidate for hire may begin working virtually, even if they are not able to get required health screenings, if it is a sensible decision for the grantee. However, all required health screenings for new hires must be completed prior to the employee coming into in-person contact with children, families, and staff.

To comply with current Head Start Act requirements found at Section 648A(g), grantees must continue to complete a criminal record check prior to hiring a new individual. Despite the current closures of state and local fingerprinting offices, the name-based check can be completed using an internet-based background check service. The comprehensive background check requirements found in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), which include fingerprinting, are scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30, 2021.

Grantees required to comply with the updated Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act requirement on background checks should check with their individual states. State Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) administrators are making state-based decisions about waivers of background checks for licensed programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states are accepting the same name-based checks referenced above, in addition to encouraging providers to check the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW).

Q&As

Q1: May programs hire staff if they are not able to get required health screenings?
A1: A candidate for hire may begin working virtually, even if they are not able to get required health screenings, if it is a sensible decision for the grantee. However, all required health screenings for new hires must be completed prior to the employee coming into in-person contact with children, families, and staff.

Q2: If state or local fingerprinting offices have been closed indefinitely due to COVID-19, do grantees still need to comply with background check requirements?
A2: To comply with current Head Start Act requirements found at Section 648A(g), grantees must continue to complete a criminal record check prior to hiring a new individual. Despite the current closures of state and local fingerprinting offices, the name-based check can be completed using an internet-based background check service. The comprehensive background check requirements found in the HSPPS, which include fingerprinting, are scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30, 2021.

Grantees required to comply with the updated CCDBG requirement on background checks should check with their individual states. State CCDF administrators are making state-based decisions about waivers of background checks for licensed programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states are accepting the same name-based checks referenced above, in addition to encouraging providers to check the NSOPW.

Planning Resources

ERSEA: Strategies During a Pandemic
Use these tips and questions to guide ERSEA planning and service delivery during a pandemic.

Head Start Management Systems Wheel: Guiding Questions During a Pandemic
Use the guiding questions in this version of the Head Start Management Systems Wheel to address your program’s immediate and temporary needs during a pandemic.

MyPeers
Connect with staff from around the country to exchange ideas and share resources. Grantee agencies may set up a staff workgroup to support internal communication and work functions. There are regularly scheduled orientation webinars for new users. Consider joining the Director's Corner, Fiscal Dive, and Staff Wellness communities.

Pandemic Programmatic and Community Update
Use this matrix to strategically plan early childhood education program operations and services during a pandemic.

Social Media Essentials for Getting Head Start Programs Connected
Use this interactive learning module to explore how different social platforms can help you stay connected with families and meet their changing needs.

Stress and Coping
Find tips for coping with stress related to COVID-19 from the CDC.

Technology and Information Systems
Learn how technology and information systems can help programs improve the way they provide services for children and families.

Office of Head Start Mobile Apps

OHS has several mobile applications available on the App Store and Google Play:

  • Head Start Resources App contains all ECLKC resources, which can be downloaded for offline use.
  • ELOF2GO provides on-the-go access to the Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) and the effective practices in support of them. It is available in English or Spanish.
  • ELOF@HOME offers the same great features as the original but is tailored for home visitors.
  • Head Start TAlks offers podcasts on various technical assistance topics.
  • Ready DLL is designed for Head Start and Early Head Start teachers and caregivers who support children who are dual language learners (DLLs). Use the app to access resources, learn key words and phrases, and discover implementation strategies.