Proposed Rulemaking on Head Start Program Eligibility Requirements

On March 18, 2011, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services published the attached proposed rule on eligibility requirements for enrollment in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Comments on the proposed rule are due by April 18, 2011.

The proposed rule was developed in response to the General Accountability Office’s May 2010 report which found, among other things, that the Head Start program was at risk of enrolling over-income children while under-income and categorically eligible children were wait-listed. In addition to addressing the programmatic weaknesses cited, the proposed rule would update Head Start and Early Head Start regulations to reflect statutory requirements from the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-134).

The changes and additions to Head Start and Early Head Start regulations are discussed on pages 14844-14851 of the attached notice. Generally, the proposed rule would:

  • Propose new requirements for eligibility determination, verification, certification, and maintenance of records
  • Revise the definitions for: Head Start-eligible, income guidelines, and low-income family
  • Add a definition for “homeless children”
  • Create new certification requirements for the applicant as well as program staff who make the eligibility determinations
  • Create a new requirement that agencies establish policies and procedures for violations of eligibility determination requirements and on consequences for staff who commit fraud, and provide training on same

Specific to tribally-operated Head Start/Early Head Start programs, the ACF proposes to update the regulations on special income eligibility to conform to the Act, and consolidate them under a new paragraph § 1305.4(d)(1)–(5). The new paragraph is explained on page 14847 (middle column).

If we may be of further assistance regarding the Head Start proposed rule, please contact us at the information below.