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Financing for ECE Quality & Access for All (F4EQ)

The F4EQ project seeks to better understand the landscape of Head Start’s participation in or use of braided funding.

Amid an unprecedented expansion of early care and education (ECE) programming, many ECE systems and program leaders must piece together multiple funding sources to meet the total cost of delivering high-quality programming. Bringing together, or braiding, these various funding streams requires coordination across different levels of the ECE system and has critical implications for program quality, workforce strength, and equity in access and outcomes for young children and their families. Of particular interest is how Head Start participates in or uses approaches that braid federal funding alongside state and local sources to provide high-quality, comprehensive services.

The Financing for ECE Quality and Access for All (F4EQ) project seeks to better understand the landscape of Head Start’s participation in or use of braided funding by identifying the most common braiding approaches, examining how these approaches can equitably advance the provision of high-quality, comprehensive ECE services, and documenting how participation in braiding funding relates to Head Start’s engagement with other ECE programs and systems efforts. Specifically, the project will include a descriptive study of financing in ECE programs that include Head Start funding with an emphasis on understanding Head Start’s role in state and local systems that will address three primary research questions.

Primary Research Questions

  1. What are common approaches to braided funding that include Head Start and how are they implemented?
  2. What are the federal, state, or local financing policy levers (e.g., requirements, regulations, standards) and enabling conditions (e.g., governance structures, mindsets, the political will to braid ECE funds) that affect Head Start’s ability to engage in braided funding and/or coordination across ECE systems?
  3. How is the use of or participation in different approaches to braided funding related to Head Start’s (a) program implementation and (b) integration within broader ECE systems?

To address these research questions, the project team will:

  • Complete a review of the existing knowledge base.
  • Conduct an environmental scan of ECE financing policy and approaches to braiding funding that include Head Start.
  • Design, field, and analyze surveys of ECE leaders and practitioners who make decisions about and implement braided funding models that include Head Start.
  • Conduct case studies (if elected) to examine the implementation of common braiding models that include Head Start in variable policy contexts and at multiple levels of the ECE system.
  • Consult with technical experts and engage additional groups of constituents for feedback across key project activities.

The resulting insights from this descriptive study will generate beneficial knowledge about Head Start’s use of and participation in braided funding practices within ECE systems, including potential enablers and barriers to braiding. Furthermore, this project will identify promising approaches and inform program strategies and policy levers by which braided funding may support the equitable provision of more accessible, comprehensive Head Start services.

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to complete this work, with partners Start Early and the Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University.

Research & Evaluation Team & Collaborators