One of the strongest messages grantees emphasized is the importance of creating guidance at a national level that is specific enough to prevent grantees from getting into trouble with reviewers and auditors, yet is flexible enough to allow them to respond to local circumstances. Many grantee directors we talked with could be classified as entrepreneurs: When they saw a need among their families, they found a way to meet it. Each one expressed appreciation for the latitude allowed by national and regional office staff and, in some cases, for the encouragement they were given to try new methods.
Two examples of the ways in which directors have responded differently to the demands of a full-day program, due to varying local circumstances, involve their scheduling of afternoon activities for children and their scheduling of staff to cover the hours in which the full-day classroom is open. Four of the grantees provided structured learning time for children in the afternoon schedule; four grantees did not. In each instance, education staff felt that they had done their best to construct a program that met Head Start Performance Standards throughout the day and that represented quality educational programs for children. But in the programs without a structured afternoon activity, there were good reasons for its absence: (1) the afternoon was short (ending at about 3:30 p.m.), and there was not sufficient time for structured activities after naps; or (2) parents began arriving at about 3:00 p.m., which meant any structured activity was interrupted and interfered with a positive transition time from Head Start to home. Staff would appreciate having Head Start set standards for high-quality full- day programs that leave the decision about afternoon programming up to each grantee.
Directors have implemented two different methods of classroom staffing to cover the hours of full-day care: (1) staggering the times that each of the paid staff begin and end their work days; and (2) hiring two separate two-person teams, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. In this instance of decisionmaking, directors have enjoyed the right to make a decision that fits their needs and staff. Directors would like to see Head Start publish suggestions of models for full-day staffing, but leave the final decision to local grantees.
A third way in which directors have responded differently to the demands of a full-day program is in the method they use to manage income from multiple funding sources. As cited in Chapter II, grantees' methods can be divided into five types:
- Grantee manages Head Start/USDA funds only — Decisions are made up front about which costs are paid by Head Start and which are paid by other agencies;
- Grantee does not allocate costs of multiple funding sources — Grantee combines all income into one fund and spends against the fund; all sources approve of this method;
- Grantee assigns each line item to one funding source — Head Start monies pay for its assigned line items; other funding pays for remaining line items;
- Grantee uses a simple allocation formula for all line items — All funding sources agree that each line item cost can be divided according to the formula; and
- Grantee uses multiple allocation formulas — Staff examine each line item and determine its appropriate allocation across funding sources.
All types of methods have passed audits and are approved by regional office contract staff. However, not all arrangements are felt to be satisfactory by grantee staff, and grantees, even those that are comfortable with their methods, feel that they could use additional guidance from the Head Start Bureau regarding the management of multiple funding sources.
The basic criteria that grantee directors used for judging the acceptability of a fiscal management strategy were its ease of use and its cost. If directors had to hire additional fiscal staff because of difficulty in using a methodology, such methodology was viewed as a barrier to their ability to deliver quality services. In other words, the money for extra fiscal staff generally came at the expense of services for children and families. The use of multiple allocation formulas (method 5) is the most expensive form of fiscal management; some grantees have simplified allocations by negotiating with all funding sources to accept a single formula for all line items (method 4). Dividing the responsibility for line items by funding sources or making up-front decisions about the charges to be paid by each source and managing exclusively Head Start funds (methods 1 and 3) were highly satisfactory to grantees and costly only in terms of the time for negotiation of agreements with other funding sources. Combining funds into one pot and spending from it (method 2) was the easiest and least expensive method.
Ideally, from grantees' viewpoints, Federal and state funding programs should come to a universal agreement to allow grantees to combine funding streams into one pot. However, for reasons of accountability, this arrangement may not be readily available. But there are ways in which Head Start can help pave the way for grantees to allocate costs among multiple sources more easily. Grantees suggest that Head Start do the following:
- Negotiate agreements at the national or state level with Job Corps, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, AFDC/JOBS, and possibly CCDBG and SSBG concerning approved principles for splitting start-up costs and ongoing expenditures for programs;
- Develop similar agreements across funding streams to cover the costs of child care during transitions of parents within or between school, training, job search, and work activities; and
- Encourage grantees to negotiate simple allocation formulas with their funding sources instead of creating complex systems to allocate each line item.
One final issue concerning funding is the difficult position in which grantees find themselves when they accept parent fees for extended hours of care. At times, these fees are a part of the copayment requirement of the second funding source; at other times, they are the responsibility of the parent because there is no other funding source. Although some argue that copays can help prepare parents for a time when child care costs will be their responsibility, collection of fees poses problems for Head Start staff. The discomfort for staff arises in part because, in general, the role of Head Start is to work with families, but when Head Start behaves as a collection agency, it is working against families. It also arises because Head Start, as a program, stipulates that parents cannot be charged for Head Start services (as do other funding sources such as AFDC). Although additional hours of care may not officially be called Head Start, they are usually delivered by the same grantee and the same staff and follow the same Head Start Performance Standards. Grantees would appreciate some dialogue on the issue of when it is appropriate to charge families for care and how it should be done, while maintaining Head Start's role of working with and for the family.