Organizational Leadership

Head Start Governing Body and Tribal Council Certification: Glossary of Documents and Reports

Head Start governing board members have a multitude of responsibilities. Among them is reviewing a wide variety of documents and reports, from personnel policies to federal directives. Head Start directors and governing board members may use this tip sheet to explore why these documents are important in their role in program governance. Note: This resource is under review.

As part of their responsibilities, Head Start governing body and Policy Council members regularly review a wide variety of documents and reports, from personnel policies to federal directives. This glossary will help executive directors, Head Start directors, governing body members, and Policy Council members learn more about these different documents and reports and the role they play in making sure they are effective stewards of their Head Start programs.

Section 642(d)(2) of the Head Start Act of 2007 lists the documents and reports that must be regularly reviewed by the governing body and Policy Council. The section reads as follows:

  • (2) CONDUCT OF RESPONSIBILITIES—Each Head Start agency shall ensure the sharing of accurate and regular information for use by the governing body and the policy council, about program planning, policies, and Head Start agency operations, including: 
    • (A) monthly financial statements, including credit card expenditures;
    • (B) monthly program information summaries;
    • (C) program enrollment reports, including attendance reports for children whose care is partially subsidized by another public agency;
    • (D) monthly reports of meals and snacks provided through programs of the Department of Agriculture;
    • (E) the financial audit;
    • (F) the annual self-assessment, including any findings related to such assessment;
    • (G) the community-wide strategic planning and needs assessment of the Head Start agency, including any applicable updates;
    • (H) communication and guidance from the Secretary; and
    • (I) the program information reports. 

Sec. 644(a)(2) of the Head Start Act of 2007 requires Head Start programs to produce annual reports that contain the following information:

    • (A) The total amount of public and private funds received and the amount from each source.
    • (B) An explanation of budgetary expenditures and proposed budget for the fiscal year.
    • (C) The total number of children and families served, the average monthly enrollment (as a percentage of funded enrollment), and the percentage of eligible children served.
    • (D) The results of the most recent review by the Secretary and the financial audit.
    • (E) The percentage of enrolled children that received medical and dental exams.
    • (F) Information about parent involvement activities.
    • (G) The agency's efforts to prepare children for kindergarten.
    • (H) Any other information required by the Secretary. 

Listed here are brief descriptions of the key documents and reports that governing body and Policy Council members develop and review as a part of their governance responsibilities:

Annual Report: An annual report includes an organization’s programmatic and financial highlights for the year and may be distributed at the annual meeting. An organization often uses its annual report as an information and public relations tool. Many public agencies and publicly funded organizations are required to produce annual reports.

Articles of Incorporation: This legal document defines the purpose and scope of an organization and is registered with the state. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iii))

Audit Report: Head Start agencies are required to have an annual independent audit. The purpose of the audit is to determine whether: (a) the organization’s financial reports are accurate; (b) the organization is complying with the terms and conditions of the Head Start Act; and (c) the organization has and follows appropriate financial and administrative procedures. The audit report includes the opinion letter, financial statements, and any findings identified by the auditor. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iv)(V)(aa)(VII)(cc)(dd); Sec.642(d)(2)(E); Sec. 647 (c)(2))

Bylaws: This document determines the structure, function, and rules of an organization’s governing board. In Head Start, both the governing body and the Policy Council must have their own bylaws. The governing body writes and approves its bylaws, while the Policy Council writes (with management staff), approves, and then submits its bylaws to the governing body for final approval. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iii); Sec. 642(c)(2)(D)(v))

Community Assessment: All Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must conduct and regularly update a community assessment and use the information from this assessment to help determine program goals. The community assessment looks at the needs and resources of eligible families, the program, and the community within the program’s service area. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(G); §1304.51(a)(1)(i))

Communication from the HHS Secretary: Documents from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include Information Memorandums (IMs), Program Instructions (PIs), and Policy Clarifications that are generated by the Office of Head Start (OHS) and sent to Head Start and Early Head Start programs. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(H)) 

Head Start Grant Application: This document is written and submitted by an organization that wants to be considered for Head Start or Early Head Start funding. It responds to the Head Start funding guidance, which describes what is needed for initial five-year funding and every year thereafter. Agencies must be able to demonstrate in their application the impacts and outcomes for children and families as a result of their Head Start experience. The Policy Council approves and submits to the governing body decisions about the grant application, and the governing body reviews and approves the grant application. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iv)(III)(V); Sec. 642(c)(2)(D)(iii)) 

Head Start Program Plan: This plan sets the direction for the Head Start program. It includes the program’s long-term program goals, school readiness goals, and programmatic and fiscal objectives. The process of developing this plan involves the Policy Council, governing body, and program management. (Sec. 642(c)(2)(A); Sec. 642(d)(2)(G); §1304.51(a))

Monthly Enrollment Reports: All Head Start programs are required to report on a monthly basis their actual enrollment. If the actual enrollment is less than the funded enrollment, programs must report the reasons for shortfall. In addition, enrollment reports often include average daily attendance rates as center-based Head Start programs are required to have at least an 85 percent monthly average daily attendance rate. If the monthly rate is less than 85 percent, the Head Start program must analyze the causes of absenteeism. (Sec. 641A(h)(2); Sec. 642(d)(2)(C); §1305.8(a); ACF-PI-HS-08-06 Monthly Enrollment Reporting)

Monthly Financial Statements: These documents are monthly summaries of a Head Start program’s income and expenses. The monthly financial report is usually viewed alongside the annual budget so that governing body and Policy Council members can see if the program is on track to meet its financial goals. Credit card expenditures are included in the monthly financial report, which helps to ensure that only authorized staff are using the cards and that purchases support reasonable program expenditures. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(A))

Monthly Reports of Meals and Snacks: The Head Start Program Performance Standards require grantee agencies to use funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Child Nutrition Programs as the primary source of payment for meal services. To receive payment for meals consumed, Head Start programs must file a monthly report. For more details, consult the USDA Costs Narrative on the ECKLC. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(D); §1304.23(b)(1)(i)) 

OHS Monitoring Report: This report contains results from the on-site monitoring review conducted in the third year of a program’s five-year funding cycle. It is a component of the five-year oversight process. Data gathered about a grantee during the monitoring review is used by OHS to evaluate multiple levels of performance and includes program strengths, areas of compliance, areas of concern, noncompliances, deficiencies, and immediate deficiencies.   

Personnel Policies and Procedures: Each program maintains employee policies and procedures tailored to its own program structure and operation. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iv)(V)(cc); Sec. 642(c)(2)(D)(vii))

Program Information Report (PIR): The PIR is an important source of descriptive and service data for the Head Start community, program partners, Congress, and the general public. All grantees and delegate agencies are required to submit an annual PIR to OHS for each Head Start or Early Head Start program. The data are used at the federal, regional, and local levels. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(I))

Program Information Summaries: These written reports provide information about the programs and services within a Head Start program. They can help governing body and Policy Council members see if their program is on target to meet Head Start requirements as well as its program goals. Ongoing program monitoring by the management staff is needed to produce good fiscal and program reports. (Sec. 642(d)(2)(B))

Proof of Nonprofit Status: This legal document from the Internal Revenue Service certifies that an organization is incorporated as a tribal or local government, an educational institution, or a charitable or religious group. Agencies with Head Start programs typically, but not always, have nonprofit status. (Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iii))

Self-Assessment Report: The self-assessment report is a summary of the results of a Head Start program’s annual self-assessment process. Along with the community assessment, it is used in the program planning process to set the program’s direction and priorities. The report may include the following information:

  • Results of an in-depth analysis of program data over time
  • Progress on achieving program goals and objectives
  • Progress on achieving school readiness goals and objectives
  • Summary of program strengths and innovations
  • Recommendations for growth and improvement

(Sec. 642(c)(1)(E)(iv)(V)(aa); Sec. 642(c)(2)(F))

Written Plans: Sometimes referred to as service plans, these plans are a result of the program planning process and describe how services will be implemented in each of the Head Start program areas. All written plans for implementing services must be reviewed and approved by the Policy Council or policy committee at least annually, and revised and updated as needed. (§1304.51(a)(2))


Last Updated: December 26, 2017