Contractual arrangements with providers. NRCA maintains a formal contractual relationship with each of the off-site child care centers and homes it uses to provide full-day service. Appendix 1 provides a copy of this formal purchase of service contract, drawn up by the Virginia Council, which drew up all of the other paperwork associated with the CCDBG grant. Providers submit biweekly invoices to NRCA Head Start, noting exact attendance records of Head Start children under their care. The NRCA Head Start program then reimburses each provider within two weeks of receiving invoices.
NRCA Head Start must then submit monthly attendance reports to the Virginia Council that updates the master list of children attending each provider's program. Both the Head Start director and the program's fiscal administrator noted that the state had made the paperwork and bookkeeping related to the CCDBG grant "very easy."
Since each of NRCA's child care contractors also serves non- Head Start children, no contractor specifies a minimum number of Head Start children that must be served at any given time. Providers do not bill Head Start for service for children with excused or unexcused absences. However, parents are required to give two weeks notice when they drop child care service; otherwise, providers can continue to bill Head Start for slots they are holding.
The Head Start director feels purchase of service contracts are a good way to work with local child care providers, because this arrangement reduces the threat of competition for child care from Head Start. Two providers interviewed also expressed satisfaction with the contractual arrangement they had with Head Start, and noted that they are reimbursed promptly and that they find the Head Start administrative staff efficient and courteous. In addition, one provider noted that Head Start's reimbursement from the CCDBG grant is higher per slot than the funding she receives from the local Department of Social Services for other low-income children she serves.
The NRCA Head Start director said, however, that Head Start's CCDBG reimbursement is lower that the payments providers receive from full fee-paying parents. As a result, some of her contractors are ambivalent about their relationship with Head Start, particularly when they know that Head Start staff are often paid higher salaries than child care staff. She feels that resentment about Head Start reimbursements and salaries fuels "petty" complaints from some of her providers about the Head Start transportation schedule (children are often dropped off at child care providers during naptime), and may fuel a tendency for some providers to treat Head Start children less well than non- Head Start children. For these reasons, she would like to obtain representation from the local child care community on the Head Start Policy Council, but has not as yet been able to do so.
Funding source restrictions. As discussed above, only parents who work or are in school or training full-time are eligible for CCDBG child care funding. Therefore, Head Start children who receive afternoon child care funded by CCDBG must leave the program if their parents leave employment or training — unless parents can afford to pay child care fees.
Funding source sufficiency. The Head Start director expressed dismay that neither Head Start nor the state of Virginia provides funding for the fiscal administration and liaison work with contracted child care providers that her staff is performing to administer the CCDBG grant. Staff must refer families to providers, obtain financial information from families, prepare provider contracts, review provider invoices and pay providers for their services, check up on any complaints, monitor attendance records, and provide monthly reports to the state of Virginia about the use of CCDBG funds. In addition, the director would like to receive higher child care reimbursement rates so that she could either: (1) provide full-day service through an in-house wraparound Head Start program that followed Performance Standards throughout the day; or (2) contract with higher quality, and therefore more expensive, outside child care providers. She feels that since Head Start is not a child care program, it should not participate in local market rate surveys of child care costs. She believes, though, that her Head Start children would benefit more from a higher quality, full-day Head Start program than from a cheaper, "connected care" program of dubious and inconsistent quality.