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Get in, Head Start Family, We’re Doing Follow-Up

Follow-up infographic

As we mentioned in our first blog post, the FY24 FA2 protocol has gone from 18 to 26 pages. In this expanded content, the themes of tracking and monitoring have become more prominent. The term "follow-up" is peppered throughout the protocol, especially in the Health and Education sections. Think of tracking and monitoring like classic pairs such as peanut butter and jelly, peas and rice, or jeans and a t-shirt—they just go hand in hand.

In the world of Head Start, tracking systems are everywhere. If you've been part of the early childhood industry for a while, you've probably encountered various systems, from binders with printed reports to countless Excel spreadsheets, Smart Sheets, and even intricate post-it note setups. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it's time to grab a highlighter and explore the protocol.

Keep in mind, that the main goal of the Focus Area 2 review is for programs to showcase their outstanding work, especially in providing high-quality services. When thinking about tracking in terms of review preparation, remember that the tracking system doesn't have to be fancy—it just needs to get the job done effectively.

A crucial term in the protocol is "real-time data." While evaluating your systems, ask yourself: Can my systems provide real-time data about the program? If you're a user of ChildPlus, make sure you're familiar with the common reports used to gather data. If your program relies on the classic spreadsheet approach, that's perfectly fine, just make sure you can explain how your system tracks referrals and follow-up.

Let’s look closely at Performance Measure 1.2 as an example. This performance measure refers to the screening process. It asks programs to discuss how they "use a tracking and monitoring system to ensure that any developmental concerns identified through screening are promptly addressed through referral or follow-up." While many programs have a system for tracking 45-day screening requirements, efficiently tracking referrals and follow-up resulting from the screening is equally crucial. Simply identifying that a child needs a referral isn't enough; programs need to ensure the referral is pursued, each child and family is supported, and the data loop is closed. For ChildPlus users, using statuses strategically can identify students needing referrals, and the "add action" function within the event can track follow-up. For those using different systems, a straightforward spreadsheet can monitor the completion status and the need for further follow-up.

Remember, in federal reviews, the focus is not just on having a system but also on explaining it clearly to reviewers. As the review season has just started, the practical implications aren't entirely clear yet. From the protocol, it seems programs won't be judged on the quality or type of their system but rather on whether it meets the program’s needs and supports effective follow-up. Therefore, programs should begin to assess their systems and make necessary adjustments.

If your program is scheduled for a review this year, you might be a little nervous right now. With a new protocol and unannounced reviews back in play, it is important to look closely at the systems your agency is using and assess whether they allow you to demonstrate how your program provides high-quality services for children and families.

The team at Sawyer Consulting Solutions is here to help you showcase all the amazing ways your program supports the community. Schedule a free, no-obligation, no-cost discovery call with us today.

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