Washington, DC – The National Head Start Association (NHSA), in collaboration with the National Indian Head Start Directors’ Association (NIHSDA) and the National Migrant/Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA), and all ten geographic regional Head Start Associations, sent a letter to deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Early Childhood Development Katie Hamm addressing the challenges and structural dangers facing Head Start children, families, staff, and programs during the ongoing public health crisis and strongly encouraging the Administration to take all possible steps to alleviate bureaucratic burden and leverage administrative flexibility so that Head Start programs can best meet the needs of at-risk children and families in fast changing community contexts. The letter from NHSA, NIHSDA, and NMSHSA urges OHS to:
- Suspend enrollment checks and implementation of under enrollment plans until September 1, 2022
- Suspend all in-person monitoring until October 1, 2022 at the earliest
- Allow grantees to shift program options based on parent needs and staffing limitations for program year 2021-22
- Release a Program Instruction or Information Memorandum which clearly states staff can be hired on a provisional basis if they are on track to receive credentials within a reasonable timeframe
- Expand Head Start eligibility by defining public assistance to include SNAP eligibility through a program instruction
- Ensure regional offices are providing the same flexibilities and guidance
“Members of the NHSA Board, alongside NIHSDA and NMSHSA, shared valuable insight into the challenges and the amount of stress and anxiety besetting everyone in the Head Start community. With the true wisdom of practitioners, they also enumerated the strategies that would help,” said NHSA Executive Director Yasminia Vinci. “Our joint letter to OHS reflects the thinking of programs in every region and the three national associations. We hope for several shifts that are in the power of the Office of Head Start to make— flexibilities which would make a critical difference in where Head Start finds itself today.”
NHSA will keep the field updated on a response from OHS and encourages Head Start leadership and staff to be in touch with additional thoughts.
The National Head Start Association is committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 270,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Follow @NatlHeadStart for more information.
Emily Wagner, Communications Director