We aren't usually ones to toot our own horn, but we need to take a minute to share some BIG news! Our Head Start and Early Head Start programs received a PERFECT report on the biggest audit of our 5-year grant period. This is a rare accomplishment even in the best of times and is a monumental feat given the unexpected challenges our programs have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This achievement is reflective of so much hard work and diligence from our teams and from programs and departments across the agency who have supported their work – from the admin team to other Encompass programs that Head Start and Early Head Start referred families to for additional support.
As background, the Office of Head Start (OHS) is required to implement ongoing monitoring of all programs receiving federal funds, including Encompass’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs. The Focus Area 2 (FA2) audit involves a rigorous 5-day review which includes conversations with program staff, classroom observations, data review, Board and Policy Council interviews, and more to monitor performance in the following areas:
- Program Management and Quality Improvement
- Education and Development Services
- Health Services
- Family and Community Engagement
- Fiscal Infrastructure
While a perfect audit score is always worth celebrating, this achievement is especially meaningful because, at its core, FA2 seeks to ensure that programs are not only delivering exemplary services that promote school readiness but are collecting meaningful data and are listening to and adapting to meet the greatest needs of our parents and families.
There are so many examples in the FA2 audit report of how our Head Start and Early Head Start programs have adapted to help our families during this incredibly challenging time. Here are just a few highlights paraphrased from the report:
After learning that parents were struggling with stress management, our program began distributing monthly mental health toolkits to promote families’ mental health. Staff also worked with the mental health consultant to establish partnerships with counseling agencies offering in- person or virtual sessions, allowing parents to access support in a setting where they were most comfortable.
- Head Start and Early Head Start responded to data showing that children needed added support to strengthen their social-emotional skills by organizing training for teachers on the principles of trauma-informed care and effective strategies for addressing challenging behaviors.
As a multi-service agency, Encompass offered resources that supported families' outcomes. Head Start and Early Head Start capitalized on Encompass’ internal structure by training family services staff to understand and access in-house support systems. Using a parent-driven approach, the family engagement team worked with families to address issues such as homelessness and food insecurity.
To support virtual learning, Head Start and Early Head Start worked with our finance team to make critical budget modifications to purchase personal protective equipment, laptops for staff, and electronic tablets for families to participate in virtual learning. Our financial planning and monitoring system ensured program needs and stakeholder input was considered when making spending decisions.
- The program hired site supervisors to assist with staff oversight and address day-to-day facility issues to enable teachers to focus on their work with children and families.
This list just scratches the surface. The report includes SO many mentions of the exemplary work our Head Start and Early Head Start teams have driven in partnership with our great Encompass team to serve families in our community.
To learn more about our Head Start and Early Head Start programs for children and families, including eligibility requirements and applications in English and Spanish, visit: www.encompasscs.org/early_education_programs.