For five of the eight programs (see Exhibit 4), receipt of full-day services is generally contingent on parental employment status; parents must be working or in training for their children to qualify for full-day services.7 For these grantees, when parents stop working or drop out of school, even temporarily, their children become ineligible for other sources of funds that are used to pay for the expanded Head Start hours. The programs need to find other funds to pay for these children or drop them from the full-day programs.
Each grantee has developed its own way to deal with this situation, realizing that it faces a difficult dilemma. Keeping the children in full-day slots makes the most sense for the child (the benefits from continuity of care are well documented). On the other hand, there are many other parents who are at work or in training and struggling to find quality full-day care for their children. Why should these children be denied full-day services when the children who are no longer eligible could go home to their parents?
Three grantees indicated that when parents lose eligibility, they try to find funding to keep children in full-day services. If they are unable to do so, the child goes to a half-day program. A fourth grantee automatically transfers children to a part-day program when changes in a parent's work/school status cause a child to become ineligible for full-day services. The remaining grantee (a connected care provider) must discontinue the extended care services unless the parents can pay for this care themselves.
[Exhibit 4 here describes funding issues faced by grantees.]
Changing eligibility also causes other financial complications for grantees. If programs are not notified about parental ineligibility in a timely manner, grantees continue to provide services. When the grantee later submits a voucher for reimbursement, payment is denied. The grantee has provided the service and paid the staff and other expenses, but is ineligible for reimbursement. In this situation, grantees are left "holding the bag."
For example, at one site, the grantee staff reported having difficulties due to eligibility-related phenomena, in a variety of circumstances. These include the following:
- A parent finds a job and needs care immediately, yet it takes several days or even weeks for the grantee to receive verification of the child's eligibility. No payments are available during the waiting period.
- A caseworker verbally confirms a child's eligibility but when the computer printout listing eligible children arrives, the child's name is not on it. The grantee will not be paid until the correction is made. This can take up to 2 months.
- A child becomes ineligible for services but neither the caseworker nor the parents notify the grantee in a timely manner. The grantee will not be reimbursed for services provided after eligibility is lost.