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Mel Gravely
October-13-2021

Head Start Announces ‘Head Start Forward’ Campaign to Help Programs Get Back to Full In-Person Enrollment

This past June, we wrote a blog outlining Head Start’s expectations for programs in the 2021-2022 school year. In it, we explained how the Office of Head Start (OHS) is expecting all programs to work towards full in-person enrollment for this program year. We explained that while OHS had originally supported virtual and remote services during the height of the pandemic in the 2020-2021 program year, they did not consider them an “acceptable replacement for in-person comprehensive services.” 

At the time, OHS didn’t yet have a formal initiative for supporting programs in getting back to full in-person enrollment. The ended their original program instruction on the matter by stating simply, “OHS will support grantees through webinars and guidance as programs continue and return fully to in-person services.”

A couple months later, OHS announced the Head Start Forward campaign. Head Start Forward is a compilation of different resources available through ECKLC that are meant to prepare programs for the upcoming year, particularly those who were fully or partially remote during last program year, or who might be struggling with getting back to full enrollment

“This initiative will bring grantees together and provide information and resources needed to prepare for upcoming program year (PY) 2021–2022,” OHS writes in its introduction to the campaign. “Head Start Forward’s goal is to support grantees in reaching more children and families and moving toward fully in-person comprehensive services, as local health conditions allow.”

As part of this campaign, OHS released their anticipated webinar series, which they say will “help programs make decisions centered on strengthening families and on the education, health, safety, and well-being of staff, children, and families.”

The webinar series is separated into five parts:

  • ERSEA & Program Structure
  • Moving Forward for ERSEA Success
  • Mental Health & Staff Wellness: Emotionally Strong Together
  • Health & Safety Considerations
  • Showcase of Grantee Best Practices on In-Person Services

In a bonus sixth webinar, a few grantees that have been showcased in the past for their best practices on in-person services, participate in a Q&A. We felt this webinar to be particularly helpful. Chances are if you have a question or a struggle in your agency, another agency is having it too. Hearing how others might solve those problems can be very beneficial, particularly when the issue is not something explicitly laid out in guidance documents.

As with anything else, to be successful you have to have a plan. OHS is providing information and guidance, but it is up to you to assess where your program is now and come up with a plan to get where you need to be in terms of full in-person enrollment.

Lastly, Head Start encourages designees to take the conversation to social media using the hashtag #HeadStartForward. Sharing your challenges and successes with each other is one of the key ways to ensure both your success locally and Head Start’s success nationally.

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