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Mel Gravely

Step 1 of ERSEA: The Community Assessment for Your Head Start Program

ersea self-assessmentERSEA is not a task for the faint of heart. In this blog we will review and clarify some ERSEA topics. ERSEA is: Eligibility – Recruitment – Selection – Enrollment – Attendance (see What is ERSEA and Why is it Important to your Head Start Program?). The Head Start Performance Standards begins the ERSEA section by talking about the community assessment, as step one. Before working out eligibility, recruitment, selection etc., we have to figure out what does our community actually need?

This already happens in the grant application, where the program proposes a service area, defined by county or sub county “such as a municipality, town or census tract or jurisdiction of a federally recognized Indian reservation.” (1302.11 A) If a program decides to change the service area after grant application is approved, a new service area proposal must be submitted to ACF.

At least once in every five years, a program must conduct a community assessment so as to be able to design a program that meets the needs of the community. This of course needs a lot of DATA, a favorite of Head Start so we can justify the program. But wait, although a full community assessment only needs to happen once in five years, you must update the community assessment annually to reflect any major change such as increased availability of publicly-funded pre-kindergarten, rates of family and child homelessness, and significant shifts in community demographics and resources.

It must include, at minimum:

  1. The number of eligible infants, toddlers, preschool age children, and expectant mothers, including their geographic location, race, ethnicity, and languages they speak, including:
    • Children experiencing homelessness in collaboration with, to the extent possible, McKinney-Vento Local Education Agency Liaisons
    • Children in foster care
    • Children with disabilities, including types of disabilities and relevant services and resources provided to these children by community agencies
  2. Education, health, nutrition and social service needs of eligible children and their families,
    including prevalent social or economic factors that impact their well-being
  3. Typical work, school, and training schedules of parents with eligible children
  4. Other child development, child care centers, and family child care programs that serve eligible children, including home visiting, publicly funded state and local preschools, and approximate number of eligible children served
  5. Resources available in the community to address the needs of eligible children and their families
  6. Strengths of the community.

Did you notice this? In 1302.12, “A program must consider whether the characteristics of the community allow it to include children from diverse economic backgrounds that would be supported by other funding sources, including private pay, in addition to the program’s eligible funded enrollment. A program must not enroll children from diverse economic backgrounds if it would result in a program serving less than its eligible funded enrollment.”

So can your program serve children from diverse economic backgrounds? I’m wondering how this would work out, how you can make sure to keep the funding totally separate. Do you know anyone who has done this? Share with your Head Start friends.


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