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Planning for the New Head Start Program Year: Transitioning Children and Filling Enrollment Spots

Illustration of laptop with enrollment graphics

As an Enrollment Manager for a Head Start program, your role in planning for the new program year extends beyond setting enrollment goals. It also involves ensuring a smooth transition for children and families and implementing effective recruitment efforts to fill enrollment spots. In this blog post, we'll explore strategies for transitioning children and maximizing recruitment efforts to fill spots for the new program year. 


When preparing for the new program year, dedicate time in the spring to plan. Begin by assessing the needs of transitioning children and families. Partner with your family engagement team and confirm which children will be transitioning out of Head Start or Early Head Start and which will be returning for a new year. We recommend using the ChildPlus Report 2030 – PNPT Rollover. This report can give you a list of children transitioning out of a program, returning to the program, or both. Use this report to guide your work to ensure all children are accounted for. Communication with families will be key in this step. 


Engage families in the transition process by providing them with information about the program, addressing their concerns, and involving them in decision-making. Especially for children transitioning from Early Head Start to Head Start, consider whether they are used to a center-based program or if this will be a new model for them. Connect them with their new site and teaching team and partner with their child development partner to ensure a transition plan is in place. 


As a Head Start/Early Head Start program, supporting children in transition is important and required within performance standards. Provide additional support for children who may have difficulty transitioning, such as those with special needs or those experiencing trauma. Work closely with families and community resources to ensure that children receive the necessary support. Utilizing ChildPlus to document resources and referrals can help in the communication between the family engagement team and the ERSEA team. 


In planning for the new program year, maximizing recruitment efforts will be key to fill those enrollment spots. Identify target populations, such as low-income families, children with disabilities, and English language learners, and develop targeted outreach strategies to reach them. This may include community events, social media campaigns, and partnerships with local organizations. Consider that worked over the last year and what did not work so well to adjust recruitment efforts. Recruit parent ambassadors from your current enrollment to help spread the word about your program and encourage other families to enroll. Parent testimonials can be a powerful recruitment tool. Share these testimonials through social media and with community partners who can provide referrals to your program. 


Partnering with local agencies, schools, and community organizations to promote your program and reach families who may not be aware of your services. These partnerships can also provide additional support for transitioning children and families. It is a partnership so make sure you are also aware of the services these community agencies offer and share with your enrolled families as well.  


Overall start early. Begin recruitment efforts well in advance of the new program year to ensure that you have enough time to reach your enrollment goals. Track and evaluate your current enrollment landscape. Monitor the effectiveness of your recruitment efforts and adjust your strategies as needed. Keep track of enrollment numbers and demographics to identify areas for improvement. Utilize a data management system, like ChildPlus, to simplify and make this process more efficient. For example, some clients we work with have utilized custom modules to track recruitment efforts and community partnerships as well as parent engagement with recruitment efforts.  


Transitioning children and filling enrollment spots are critical aspects of planning for the new program year. By developing comprehensive transition plans, engaging families, and implementing targeted recruitment efforts, you can ensure a smooth transition for children and families and maximize enrollment opportunities for your Head Start program. 


Interested in learning more about this topic or other ways you can improve your program? 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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