All families are encouraged to maintain consistent attendance in the Head Start program. Consistent attendance is defined as present or participating for 85% of expected hours, or more. Head Start staff help families in identifying barriers to consistent attendance. Staff initiate supports as appropriate. If participation or attendance ceases, staff make efforts to reengage families to resume attendance. A slot is vacant when attendance does not resume, and may be considered an enrollment opportunity.

Areas of Responsibility

  1. Parents/guardians must call, send a note, or communicate with Head Start staff to account for each day that their child cannot attend. Parents must explain the reason for the absence.
  2. The Direct Service Team is responsible for ensuring that the Daily Sign In/Out forms are completed at the time of arrival and departure, accurately and completely. If a child is unexpectedly absent, and the parent has not made contact with staff within one hour of start time, designated staff will then attempt to contact the parent.
  3. Head Teachers/Teachers record attendance, document explanations for absence, and plan follow-up to attendance issues on a daily basis, in the electronic data management systems. The Family Support Coordinator, Head Teacher or Integrated Service Lead (ISL) is responsible for continuing to contact the family about attendance issues , until attendance improves or an attendance follow up plan is in place. These staff members provide familial support with attendance issues, and document attempts to provide support, as well as services provided
  4. Regional Managers investigate and document the causes of absenteeism, if the average daily attendance in a center-based classroom falls below 85%. The analysis includes a study of the pattern of absences for each child, the reasons for the absences, and the number of absences that occur on consecutive days. The analysis is part of the RM’s regular report. In addition, RMs identify any children with patterns of absence, when there is a risk of the child missing 10% of program days per year, or more. Children at risk for missing 10% of program days will be identified within 60 days of starting in the program.
  5. Regional Assistants monitor attendance on a weekly basis and inform RMs and the ERSEA Manager when there are attendance concerns.

Attendance plans and alternative services

  1. If a child has 2 or more consecutive absences, regardless of whether the absences are explained or unexplained, the Head Teacher or staff entering attendance will notify the RM. The RM will coordinate a course of action to improve attendance plan with the DST, ISL and family. If multiple unexplained absences occur, and the family cannot be reached by usual means, including by reaching out to Emergency Contacts, staff will conduct a home visit or make direct contact with the parent to create an attendance plan.
  2. The attendance plan will be designed to support the child’s consistent attendance in the program, or if necessary, to plan for alternative services. The attendance plan will be developed by the family and the Family Support Coordinator, Head Teacher, Interpreter, Community Child Care Specialist or RM, typically during a home visit or face-to-face meeting. During the attendance plan meeting, staff will:
    1. Provide information to the parent about the benefits of regular attendance.
    2. Identify the reasons for the absences
    3. Create a specific plan and identify a date for establishing consistent attendance or alternative services (explained in #3 below)
    4. In cases of prolonged illness, child care restricted communicable disease, or children with 504 Plans for Medical Disabilities, the Health and Nutrition Consultant (or School Nurse) should also participate in developing the attendance plan
  3. Alternative services will be designed to ensure that all children enrolled in Head Start receive services and continue to make progress on their educational goals. Alternative services will be provided by the Head Teacher, or other assigned staff and will typically occur during a home visit and in accordance with the policies on Individualizing and Home Visits. Head Teachers may use online assessment parent activity libraries, as well as classroom supplies and other learning materials, to provide home based activities that address all domains of learning in the HS Early Learning Framework with a focus on the skills that the child is ready to learn. For children receiving ECSE services, the Head Teacher will collaborate with the Early Childhood CARES service coordinator to ensure that the child receives the appropriate special education services. If the child and family begin to receive alternative services, the ERSEA Manager is notified and explanatory notes by the RM, Consultant or ERSEA Manager must be entered in the child’s file.
  4. Staff must document all communication with the child’s family and any alternative services provided, in the child’s file.

Withdrawal from the program

  1. If consistent attendance cannot be established, either by classroom participation or by participation in alternative services, another child on the waiting list must be given the opportunity to enroll in the program. Families should be given numerous opportunities to establish regular attendance, and should be withdrawn from the program only when they are unwilling or unable to participate.
  2. If all attempts to communicate with the family have failed using phone, letter, text message or visit to the home, the slot will be considered open for enrollment after a two week period. If placement is terminated due to insufficient attendance, a letter form the Regional Managerr will be sent to the family. (see <a href=””>Intake and Enrollment Process policy</a>)


  1. One scheduled vacation, family visit, or other planned absence of up to three calendar weeks will be permitted each program year. Families will be expected to participate in alternative services during and after the absence.
  2. Families participating in Full Day, Full Year programs can request additional vacation weeks; however, vacation time must not be taken for more than 3 consecutive calendar weeks at a time.
  3. Families who do not re-establish regular attendance within three calendar weeks will be withdrawn from the program.

This policy complies with Head Start Performance Standard 1305.8(a)-(c) and 1306.32(b)(5).
It was approved by Policy Council on October 25, 2006. June 14, 2011. May 13, 2014. March 10, 2015. November 2015. January 2017
It was approved by the Board of Directors on November 17, 2009. August 16, 2011. May 20, 2014. November 2015. January 2017
It was last updated on December 12, 2006. May 2011. May 2013. January 2014. March 2015. October 2015. December 2016. February 2019

Reviewed: December 2020