Why Now is the Perfect Time for your Community Assessment!

Now is the perfect time to reassess or conduct your Community Assessment.  While program planning is always an important piece of a successful Head Start or Early Head Start program your community’s needs may have been impacted due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.  We can examine modifications that can be made to the traditional Community Needs Assessment (CNA) process, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Has your agency explored techniques for data prioritization as staff juggles pre-COVID-19 needs as well as current crisis requests? We can help!

A current and comprehensive Community Assessment is one of the key documents to have for effective program planning. A comprehensive Community Assessment is also needed to write your Refunding Application, your Recompetition Grant Application and to maintain programmatic compliance. Your Community Assessment is a key document that drives decision-making in your program.

We create comprehensive & custom designed Community Assessments for Head Start programs, Early Head Start programs and agencies (including Community Action Agencies).  Our Community Assessments will meet the requirements of the Head Start Program Performance Standards (and of your CAP or other program regulations). All of our services are custom designed to meet the specific needs of your program or agency; we will include any additional data that you request.

Our Community Assessments include:

    • Aggregating and analyzing a multitude of data sources;
    • Comparing current data with past years’ data;
    • Colorful graphs and charts illustrating the data;
    • Key findings for each piece of data;
    • Highlights & considerations for each major section;
    • Survey results of your Parents, Staff, Board of Directors and Community Partners.

In addition to Community Assessments we also:

For more information on any of these services, or to request a sample, please contact susanwitek@hsessentials.com.

Preparing for a Successful Health & Safety Federal Monitoring Review Event

Have you begun to prepare for your Environmental Health & Safety Review Event? For many programs, Environmental Health & Safety is the first Review Event that you will receive in the newly aligned monitoring system. The new Environmental Health & Safety protocol details the items that will be a part of this Review Event.

Below are several important items to focus on when preparing for a successful Health & Safety Review Event:

  • Observe the health and safety-related items in your facilities. Observe the same things that the Reviewers will be observing. These include: 1) the safety and cleanliness of your inside and outdoor spaces, 2) staff/child ratios, 3) emergency procedures, 4) supervision and 5) medication management. These are just a few of the areas that the Reviewers will be observing. Create a plan to quickly resolve any areas that are out of compliance.
  • Review your tracking systems.  Ensure that your tracking systems are current and complete. The Reviewers will spend time reviewing the system that you use to ensure that all of your staff receive a criminal record check prior to being hired. They will also review documents related to inspections (fire, building, USDA) and Licensing.
  • Articulate the systems that are in place.  Reviewers want to see systems in place throughout your program. When interviewing your staff, the Reviewers want to hear about the systems that you have in place as it pertains to health and safety. Answer their questions by describing the systems, (i.e. First we do this, then we do this, etc…), demonstrating that the same process is followed for all children and families in each of your centers.

Looking for a Mock Review to prepare for a successful Health & Safety Federal Monitoring Review Event? Give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at kristinecortina@hsessentials.com.

A Summary of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Newly Aligned Monitoring System. You may have reviewed the Virtual Expo or listened to the webinar. You’ve probably seen the new terms that have been introduced – HSKI-C, Differential monitoring, MEC, RFL, Review events. While it’s important to take time to explore the Virtual Expo, we thought that a summary of the key points of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System would be helpful.

General information

  • As grants have transitioned from indefinite grant periods to 5 year grants, the monitoring process has also changed, from receiving a Monitoring Review every 3 years to receiving separate and focused Review events in Years 1 through 3 of your 5 year grant.
  • The Office of Head Start will use a multi-year perspective to evaluate grantee performance – using the data to determine if your program will re-compete at the end of the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs with a history of compliance will receive a differential monitoring; programs with a history of findings will receive a comprehensive monitoring.
  • Programs that have a history of compliance have met the following criteria: No findings in the last Federal Monitoring Review, no fiscal findings in the last 2 Fiscal Reviews, clean audits, no significant changes in your program, and positive input from the Regional Office. Programs that do not meet those criteria have a history of findings.
  • The differential monitoring process consists of a HSKI-C (Head Start Key Indicators – Compliance) which is made up of 27 compliance measures. If the program passes the HSKI-C, they will receive an Environmental Health & Safety Review event and a CLASS review. If the program does not pass the HSKI-C, they will receive a comprehensive Monitoring Review.
  • The comprehensive monitoring process consists of an Environmental Health & Safety Review event (in years 1 or 2), a Management Systems/Program Governance Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Comprehensive Services/School Readiness Review event (in years 2 or 3) and a CLASS Review (in years 2 or 3). Year 4 is an evaluation and determination year. Year 5 is a non-Monitoring year.
  • Programs who receive a differential monitoring in this 5 year grant cycle will receive a comprehensive monitoring in the next 5 year grant cycle.
  • When the new Head Start Program Performance Standards come out, they will be incorporated into the newly aligned monitoring system.

Preparing for Review Events

  • Instead of one big Review, there are now content-specific Review events.
  • Programs will receive a customized grantee letter that indicates if you will receive a differential or comprehensive Monitoring Review as well as the projected Review schedule for the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs will receive a separate letter for each Review event and may receive multiple Review events in a year. Programs will continue to receive a 30-day letter for announced Reviews – and unannounced Reviews will continue as well.
  • A Monitoring Event Coordinator (MEC) will be assigned to each program for the 5 year cycle.  The MEC will be your primary point of contact pre-site, will schedule the planning session, will schedule activities and coordinate logistics, and will connect you with your Review Field Lead (RFL).
  • While the Reviewers are at your program, the RFL will work with you virtually, as he/she will not be on-site. The RFL will be an expert in the area of your content-specific Review event.
  • Programs will receive a report at the end of each Review event.  If you have findings, a follow-up Review will be conducted to ensure that all non-compliances have been corrected.


  • This is an opportunity to recognize grantees with a history of strong performance – and award them with a reduced monitoring process. The intention is to incentivize grantees to quality.
  • The 27 compliance measures of the HSKI-C predict grantee performance.
  • Programs who qualify for a HSKI-C will receive it in the 1st or 2nd year of their 5 year grant.
  • The key indicators of the HSKI-C protocol include fiscal integrity, management systems, program governance, and comprehensive services/school readiness.
  • Programs can expect 2 on-site Reviewers who will interview staff, Policy Council and the Board of Directors; review staff files; and review financial transactions and other documents.
  • The results of the HSKI-C are used only to identify if a comprehensive monitoring is needed.
  • The Office of Head Start will send a letter if the HSKI-C is successful (a successful HSKI-C means that you were compliant in all 27 compliance measures).

Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review Event

  • The key indicators of the fiscal integrity protocol include financial management systems, reporting, procurement, compensation, cost principles and facilities & property.
  • The key indicators of the ERSEA protocol include eligibility, enrollment and attendance.
  • Programs can expect 1 on-site Reviewer for 4 days who will conduct interviews with fiscal and ERSEA staff as well as review fiscal and ERSEA documents.

Environmental Health & Safety Review Event

  • Reviewers will visit every classroom in every center.
  • The Environmental Health & Safety Review entails 4 key areas – safe & clean facilities, healthy learning environments, safe learning environments & supervision, and safe transportation.
  • Programs can expect at least 1 on-site Reviewer for an average of 3 days. The Review will include observing facilities and interviewing staff.

Tips for Preparing for a Successful Federal Monitoring Review

Tip #1:  Have a comprehensive ongoing monitoring system in place.

The system should include an ongoing monitoring tool, calendar and procedure. Also be sure that your ongoing monitoring system includes a way to document the non-compliances that are found – and that they’re corrected in a timely manner.

Tip #2:  The Board of Directors & Policy Council articulate their roles and responsibilities.

The Board of Directors understands their increased role – that they have fiscal and legal responsibility for the program. During the interviews, your Board and Policy Council talk about the (1) training they received; (2) monthly reports they receive; and (3) items that they review and approve.

Tip #3:  Have a system in place for everything.

Reviewers are looking for systems and want to hear you and your staff talk about the systems that you have in place in your program. Answer their questions by describing the systems that are in place (i.e. First we do this, then we do that, etc…), showing that the same thing is done for all children and families.

Interested in a Mock Review to prepare for a successful Federal Monitoring Review?  Give us a call at (704) 451-3255.