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May 2003Vol. 4, No. 4Tips for Applying for Children's Bureau Discretionary Grants

Sally Flanzer, former director of the Division of Data, Research and Innovation at the Children's Bureau, offers these top 10 reasons applicants for Children's Bureau discretionary grants do not receive high scores or do not "win" awards. Make sure these items don't happen to you, to help ensure a fair assessment for your application.

  1. The application is not responsive to the announcement.
  2. The application is sent to the wrong address or is received after the deadline.
  3. The application is longer than the page limits, and the "excess" pages (which are not copied and supplied to reviewers in order not to give anyone an unfair opportunity to provide more information than anyone else) contained the "meat" of the application or, at least, information that was needed to meet the criteria.
  4. The application is messy; the font is too small or the margins too narrow (in an effort to squeeze more information into the application); the narrative contains poor grammar or spelling errors; or the material is presented in an order different from that suggested by the announcement. Because peer reviewers read up to a dozen applications, anything that makes it more difficult to read is likely to result in a lower score.
  5. The proposal is good but not innovative. It re-creates the wheel and does not expand the knowledge base. Reviewers feel that whatever is proposed is already "known" by the field. Reviewers are unlikely to give the application a high score unless they believe that from this award the field is likely to "find out" something new.
  6. For demonstration applications, the proposal is a thinly veiled vehicle to deliver services rather than a "test" of a new service delivery model or set of services. Children's Bureau discretionary dollars are not for service delivery alone.
  7. For research applications, the proposal is a thinly veiled vehicle to deliver services.
  8. The writer seems unfamiliar with the specifics of child welfare, child abuse and neglect, adoption, and/or foster care and neglect. Because peer reviewers represent many disciplines, they seem particularly careful to remember that they are reviewing awards within a child welfare context. Lack of sophistication about the current state of child welfare in general does not bode well for the likelihood that the proposal will be successful in producing results that will be applicable in the real world of child welfare and child protective services agencies or professional development programs.
  9. For research applications, the statistical methods proposed are insufficient to test the hypotheses.
  10. The application is not responsive to the announcement. (This can't be said enough!)

For more information about Discretionary Grant Programs, visit the Children's Bureau website at

Related Item

For more grant resources or information about becoming an ACYF grant reviewer, visit the April 2003 edition of Children's Bureau Express or the ACYF Grant website at