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HHS Releases Funding Opportunities for 97 Head Start Service Areas

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 19, 2012.  Today, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the availability of Head Start funding in 97 Head Start service areas across the country. These funding opportunities are consistent with new criteria for quality and accountability in Head Start programs announced by President Barack Obama in November 2011.  These criteria were established through new rules that require, for the first time ever, that Head Start grantees that fail to meet rigorous quality benchmarks compete for continued federal funding. The funding opportunities announced today are open to all eligible organizations, and applicants have 90 days to submit their Head Start grant proposals online through www.Grants.gov.

“It is our top priority to ensure our Head Start children receive the high-quality services they deserve in order to reach their highest potential in school and in life,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are committed to funding only those organizations that can provide the highest-quality services to our children and families.”

Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, director of the Office of Head Start, said the first goal of Head Start is to “put our nation’s low-income children on a road to school readiness. We’re keeping our commitment to America’s children and holding programs accountable for their services. Our children deserve the best early education services today in order to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

The funding opportunity announcements will be released in two groups. Grantees were placed into each group based on the month their program year funding begins. This process will allow for planning transitions at natural breaks in services, minimizing disruptions to children, families and staff. Funding opportunity announcements for the first group of service areas are available today and are posted on www.Grants.gov. An additional 100 funding opportunity announcements for the second group will be available in May.   

In an effort to provide relevant information and support for all applicants, the Office of Head Start has created an Applicant Support Website. This interactive website offers a robust collection of resources intended to support organizations in gaining a deeper understanding of the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the funding opportunity announcement, and the evaluation criteria for health and safety, fiscal integrity, and measures of Head Start classroom quality.

The regulation announced in November 2011 is one more tool that HHS has rolled out to ensure that programs are providing the highest quality services to children and families by mandating that any Head Start grantee will have to compete for funding if they fail to meet conditions required for a quality program. HHS still has statutory authority to suspend or terminate a grantee if it fails to correct problems identified through Head Start monitoring, including areas related to the health and safety of children.

Since 2009, the Office of Head Start has taken historic steps and implemented bold reforms to strengthen accountability, hold programs to high standards, and improve classroom quality for the nearly one million children receiving Head Start services each year. High-quality early childhood education is critical for ensuring that every child enters school ready to succeed.

Head Start provides grant s to local organizations to provide comprehensive child development services to low-income children from birth to five years of age, pregnant women, and their families. Today, nearly 1,600 Head Start and Early Head grantees across the country provide early learning services to our nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Strengthening the quality of Head Start programs builds on historic investments by the President in early learning programs:

  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama invested $2.1 billion in Head Start and Early Head Start, expanding these programs to reach an additional 61,000 children and families.
  • Through the Affordable Care Act, $1.5 billion in funding over five years was provided for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, connecting families with a range of services through evidence-based home visiting strategies that help families create a nurturing environment for young children.
  • The President has called to strengthen our nation’s child care programs by raising the level of quality and service for early education providers.
  • Finally, the President launched the Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge, a first-of-its-kind competition, to bring innovation and quality improvement to all early learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-K, child care, and private preschools. The Early Learning Challenge aims to close the achievement gap between low-income children and their peers by raising and adopting rigorous standards across programs and focusing on outcomes and results in early learning, in order to ensure that more children enter kindergarten ready for success.

For more information on the Office of Head Start visit http://transition.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs or log onto Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center at http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc.

Source: hhs.gov

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