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Shared decision making is an essential element in all Head Start programs and must be consistently practiced. Because shared decision making is the basis of Program Governance and requires ongoing work and commitment, it is important that all staff and parents, the governing body, and the Policy Council/Committee (policy group) understand its importance and function.

The Program Governance structure exists in a Head Start program to support the delivery of quality services to children and families and to support the meaningful role of parents in shared decision making. See the Head Start Program Performance Standards, 45 CFR 1304.50 for the section on Program Governance.

Taken from Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (




Approve and submit to Board decisions about activities to support active parent involvement in supporting the program’s operations, including responsiveness to community needs.

  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about Policy Council bylaws.
  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about program recruitment, selection, and enrollment priorities.
  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about applications for program funding and amendments, prior to submission.
  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about budget planning for program expenditures, including policies for reimbursement and participation in Policy Council activities.
  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about program personnel policies and decisions regarding selection of program staff (consistent with Board’s authority regarding Executive Director, Head Start Director, Human Resources Director, Fiscal Officer, and equivalent agency positions), including standards of conduct and criteria for employment and dismissal of program staff.
  • Approve and submit to Board decisions about developing procedures for Policy Council elections.


  • Legally and financially responsible for administering and overseeing Head Start programs, including safeguarding federal funds.
  • Adopt practices that assure active, independent and informed governance of grantee.
  • Fully participate in development, planning, and evaluation of Head Start program.
  • Ensure compliance with federal and applicable state and local, laws and regulations.
  • Establish procedures and guidelines for accessing and collecting information required to be shared with Board and Policy Council.
  • Establish procedures and criteria for recruitment, selection, and enrollment.
  • Review applications for Head Start funding and amendments.
  • Approve financial management, accounting, and reporting policies, and comply with laws regarding financial statements, including:
    • Approve all major financial expenditures of grantee;
    • Annually approve grantee’s operating budget;
    • Select auditor; and,
    • Monitor correction of audit findings and other necessary actions to comply with laws about financial statements and accounting practices.
  • Review and approve all major grantee policies, including:
    • Annual self-assessment;
    • Financial audits;
    • Agency progress in carrying out programmatic and fiscal provisions in the funding application, including any corrective action; and,
    • Personnel policies (which address the hiring, compensation, evaluation, and termination) for grantee employees.
  • Approve personnel policies and procedures, including those for hiring, evaluation, compensation, and termination of Executive Director, Head Start Director, Human Resources Director, Fiscal Officer, and equivalent positions.
  • Develop selection procedures for Policy Council members.
  • Review federal monitoring results and follow-up activities.
  • Adopt and periodically update written conflict of interest policies.
  • Establish advisory committees to oversee responsibilities about program governance and improvement, where appropriate.