Resources for Developing Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Agreements

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodMay 28 2020

The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP) were developed to expand access to quality early childhood care and education programs for infant, toddlers, and their families. The EHS-CCP model includes partnering with child care centers and family child care homes to offer EHS “slots” for infants and toddlers who qualify for federal assistance. Children and families also receive comprehensive health, developmental, and family support services through the partnerships. Developing partnership agreements requires use of an iterative process designed to foster a collaborative relationship between EHS-CCP grantees and each of the unique centers and family child care homes that join the partnership. While the process of developing these agreements can be challenging, it also can provide an opportunity for grantee staff and child care partners to develop the basis for working together over time in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Developing clear partnership agreements is an important foundation for strong Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. The goal of this resource is to provide tools for developing such agreements. The resource is based on findings from a study that Child Trends conducted with six partnerships with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to enhance their comprehensive services, professional development supports and other offerings. [1] In the study, which was also funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, interviews were conducted with 111 EHS-CCP grantees, child care partners and parents. We learned that partnerships took longer than anticipated to initiate and fully implement, in part because initial steps took longer than anticipated. For instance, getting the agreements and funding mechanisms in place is a lengthy process. It can also take a long time to get each program partner ready to fully implement the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and, once those standards are met, grantees expend a lot of effort working with program partners to maintain those standards.

Throughout the process, grantee staff and child care partners learned that strong partnership agreements with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities were a key element in a successful partnership.  Because each partnership is unique, in terms of the number of partners, the way the partnerships are structured, the staffing structures, communication processes, and other factors, there is a lot of flexibility built into the model regarding how to structure them and how to set up partnership agreements. [2] There is also a lot of flexibility built into the model for local innovation. Since developing clear partnership agreements is such an important part of developing strong partnerships, we offer this two part resource to:

  1. Share insights and lessons learned from grantee staff and child care partners from six partnerships about things to consider when forming EHS-CC partnerships and developing contractual agreements. Through our interviews with the six grantees and their child care partners, we learned about challenges and successes in developing strong EHS-CC partnerships and contractual agreements. The findings from the interviews were augmented with input during a gathering of grantee staff and child care partners from the six partnerships Child Trends convened. The first part of this resource highlights key findings from the interviews and from the convening, with particular input from one of the grantee directors, Yolanda Motley, who is a co-author of this resource. This grantee director has led conference sessions on how to develop contractual partnership agreements, including at the convening. Part 1 of this resource benefits from her experience and perspective on issues to consider before, during, and after the formation of a contractual partnership agreement.
  2. Provide summaries of and links to further resources (e.g., from the National Center on Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships) that highlight what to include in partnership agreements and what to expect from the partnership agreement development process. Part 2 of this resource includes an annotated bibliography  of relevant resources for EHS-CCP grantees, child care providers, researchers, policymakers and practitioners interested in understanding best practices for developing a partnership agreement (starting on page 6) . Part 2 also includes a sample agreement from an EHS-CCP grantee.



[1] Halle, T., Banghart, P., Zaslow, M., Cook, M., Kane, M., Bartlett, J. D., Redd, Z., Bamdad, T., Cox, A., & Lloyd, C. M. (2019). Implementation lessons from six Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. Early Education and Development, 30(8), 990–1008.

[2]  Del Grosso, P., Thomas, J., Makowsky, L., Levere, M., Fung, N., & Paulsell, D. (2019). Working Together for Children and Families: Findings from the National Descriptive Study of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.