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Head Start, Early Head Start To Be Melded in "Seamless" Grant Pilot

Applicants in five parts of the country can apply for a grant that blends Early Head Start and Head Start funds in what the government hopes will be a "seamless" birth-to-5 program. About $111.6 million in federal funds will be devoted annually to the effort.

The pilot program is available to applicants in Baltimore, Detroit, the District of Columbia, Jersey City, N.J., and Sunflower County in Mississippi. Those areas were chosen because they represent a variety of geographic and demographic challenges and opportunities, according to a press release from the Office of Head Start in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Head Start, which launched in 1965, serves low-income children ages 3 to 5. Early Head Start, created in 1994, serves low-income pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. This grant pilot offers a chance for applicants to submit a single application to serve both of those groups. The Office of Head Start is also placing a premium on new and research-driven ideas, as this excerpt from the grant description shows:

Applicants are strongly encouraged to bring new and innovative ideas that are evidence-based or evidence-informed to maximize the extent to which Early Head Start and Head Start, in collaboration with other partners and early-childhood-education providers, can prepare children and their families for school. Applicants are urged to explore synergies and partnerships with existing early-childhood programs. This may include combining Head Start and Early Head Start funds with resources from other early childhood programs or funding streams, including state, local, and private sector funding for child-care, prekindergarten, and special education services. Applicants that can show a strong track record of successfully preparing young children for school will be given special consideration.

The Head Start office describes this new funding stream as one of a series of reforms it is undertaking to improve the $8 billion program. Head Start is now requiring that 254 grantees reapply for continued funding. The office is also starting a process to improve grantee training and its technical assistance system.

Potential program managers have until May 2 to get their applications in. More information can be found on the Office of Head Start's grant information page. (The new grants are at the bottom of the list.)

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