Designation Renewal

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as required by Congress, established the Designation Renewal System (DRS) to determine whether Head Start and Early Head Start agencies deliver high-quality and comprehensive services to the families they serve. DRS established five year grant periods for all Head Start service awards, with many agencies receiving further five year grants without competing for funding. Any agency which meets a specified condition during the course of the grant period is not eligible for funding without competition. Instead, the opportunity to provide Head Start services in that area is made available to any interested agency which submits a competitive application in response to a funding opportunity announcement (FOA).

Below are the milestones in the implementation of the regulation.



  • 12/07/12

  • Reform Continues: Head Start Grant Applicants Under Review
    In the first Office of Head Start blog post, Director Yvette Sanchez Fuentes provides detailed information on the Head Start competition process.

  • 10/05/12

  • PI 12-03 Non-Competitive Five-Year Grant Awards
    This Program Instruction advises grantees of the process to request consideration from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for a non-competitive five-year grant award as specified in 45 CFR § 1307.7(a)(1) and outlines ACF's process for determining eligibility for a non-competitive five-year grant.

  • 05/16/12

  • Birth-to-Five Funding Opportunity Announcement Pilot
    The Office of Head Start will be piloting a Birth-to-Five Funding Opportunity Announcement in five service areas where Head Start and Early Head Start funds are slated to be awarded through a competitive process. Potential applicants may submit a single application for a comprehensive birth-to-five program, or may apply for a Head Start-only or Early Head Start-only grant, based on the needs in the community.

  • 4/19/12

  • Head Start Funding Opportunities Now Available
    Today, HHS announced the availability of Head Start funding in 97 Head Start service areas across the country. The funding opportunities announced today are open to all eligible organizations, and applicants have 90 days to submit their grant proposals online through

  • 03/28/12

  • Designation Renewal System Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
    These Frequently Asked Questions provide information about the implementation phase of the Designation Renewal System.

  • 01/30/12

  • Grant Reviewers Application Information
    The Office of Head Start is seeking qualified, non-federal reviewers to evaluate applications for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, with experience in early childhood or related fields, as well as reviewers with expertise in fiscal and organizational operations.

  • 01/06/12

  • HHS Grants Forecast
    The Department of Health and Human Services' Grants Forecast website is a database of planned grant opportunities proposed by its agencies. Enter "Head Start" in the search box to find the upcoming Head Start-related opportunities.




  • 12/2008

  • A System of Designation Renewal of Head Start Grantees: Report of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Re-designation of Head Start Grantees [PDF, 811KB]
    The findings and recommendations of the expert panel, required by the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 to make recommendations to the Secretary on a system of designation renewal.


Designation Renewal. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2014. English.

Last Reviewed: January 2017

Last Updated: January 30, 2017