10.2 ERSEA


What Is It?

ERSEA (1302.1 Subpart A) stands for: Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance of children in Head Start programs.

You are responsible for managing the number of families and ensuring their progress in your home-based program (this is sometimes referred to as “case management,” although many service providers prefer not to use this term or refer to families as “cases”). This is a complex process; you need to know and understand the depth and breadth of the HSPPS and be responsive to family, program, and community needs.

Eligibility, enrollment, and number of families served

Families must meet federal eligibility guidelines such as those involving family income, and they must meet specific eligibility criteria established by your program administrators and governing bodies according to 1302.12-1302.16. In addition, programs must reserve 10% of enrolled slots for children with a diagnosed disability. (See 45 CFR 1305.6 HSPPS Subpart F for details on additional services for children with disabilities)

Before a family is enrolled in the home-based option, program personnel should determine whether family needs and circumstances are appropriate for this option. For example, at least one parent (or the child’s legal guardian) must be available to participate in weekly home visits and twice-monthly socializations for the duration of the child’s enrollment in the program option. Parents or guardians should also be willing to support individual child and program school readiness goals, determined through joint planning with the home visitor, during the time between home visits.

Family recruitment and retention

All staff members should be involved in strategies to recruit and retain families. The intimate relationship that a home visitor has with each family is fertile ground for understanding family needs and how to keep participants involved and engaged in the home-based program.

How To

Here are strategies to consider for ERSEA activities:

  • The Community Assessment, conducted at least once over the five year grant period [45 CFR 1302.11(b)], gives essential information about the needs of families and resources available in your community. It must be updated when any significant changes in the needs or resources available to families occur. Work with program administrators to reevaluate how your program can best meet community needs, including whether the home-based program option is appropriate for the current circumstances in your community.

  • Know your funded enrollment.

  • Work with program administrators to determine eligibility criteria for your program. Maintain a waiting list of eligible children/families.

  • Establish a recruitment system that includes a variety of outreach strategies. For example,

    • get referrals from community and faith-based organizations that serve families.
    • involve home visitors as appropriate, for example, assign each home visitor a liaison role to a particular community organization.
    • offer family and community social events as a way of recruiting families.
  • Develop strategies that focus on recruiting and retaining pregnant women (if serving pregnant women is part of your program’s grant award).

  • When possible, maintain continuity for families by having the same staff person handle recruitment, enrollment, and providing child and family services in the home. When this is not possible, ensure communication among staff members so families do not have to repeat information multiple times.

  • Keep track of enrollment numbers so that you can anticipate when to step up recruitment efforts.

  • Encourage home visitors to regularly assess whether the program is meeting family expectations and needs.

  • Work with home visitors to generate specific strategies to support individual families in staying involved and engaged in the program. This is particularly important if parents are regularly missing home visit appointments and/or not attending group socializations.

  • Develop strategies that focus on including fathers and other significant male family members.

  • Regularly emphasize the importance of the home visitors’ relationships with families. Families are more likely to stay engaged with the program if they feel connected to home visitors and other program staff with whom they interact.

  • Help home visitors work with families to recognize when the home-based program is not the right fit for the family. Work with home visitors to support families in finding resources to better fit their needs.

  • Conduct “exit interviews” with families who leave the program to find out why they stopped participating.

Learn More

This web page contains information and resources that support effective access to Early Head Start and Head Start programs for children and families.


These 10 management systems create a framework for you to understand how best to support services for children and their families. They serve as strong standards for effective management of your program.