Local agency among 122 that must compete for federal early childhood funds

January 28, 2013

A local Early Head Start program that operates in Englewood and Schaumburg is one of 122 around the country that must compete for Head Start or Early Head Start funds once its current grant runs out.

In a recent review, Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois failed to meet new standards that took effect in 2012, officials at the U.S. Department of Human Services announced Thursday. That means its grant money could be up for grabs once its current contract with the federal government expires.

Programs must now compete for funding if they have financial or management problems, if on-site monitoring reviews find issues, or – starting this year – if they score in the lowest 10 percent of programs on a classroom observation tool.

The agency says it needs to re-compete due to administrative issues, not safety or classroom quality problems. 

Jan Stepto-Millett, vice president of early childhood services at Children’s Home and Aid Society, says federal reviewers found the organization didn’t meet federal standards for how frequently certain information is reported to the organization’s board. “They were administrative standards that had nothing to do with our program’s health and safety of children,” Stepto-Millett says.

Mike Shaver, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Children’s Home and Aid, says he feels the process was fair but adds that “it is frustrating to find that a set of administrative operations, that have little to do with what goes on in the classroom, can compromise and unsettle the whole grant process.”

Other local programs that have passed since the new standards went into effect include CEDA’s Head Start program and Howard Area Community Center’s Early Head Start program.

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (which administers programs in dozens of community agencies and Chicago schools), Chicago Commons Early Head Start, El Valor Head Start, and the Ounce of Prevention Fund will all face reviews in the coming two years.