Review of the United Planning Organization's Compliance With Health and Safety Regulations for Head Start Programs
As part of a series of reviews requested by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, we found that United Planning Organization (UPO) did not fully comply with Federal and State requirements on ensuring the health and safety of children in its care. The major objectives of the Head Start program include promoting school readiness and enhancing the social and cognitive development of low-income children by providing health, educational, nutritional, and social services. In fiscal year (FY) 2009, Congress appropriated $7.1 billion to fund the Head Start program's regular operations. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided an additional $2.1 billion for the program during FYs 2009 and 2010.
As of August 2009, the files on 57 of UPO's 127 employees (1) lacked a declaration form, (2) lacked evidence of a completed background check, (3) lacked evidence of a completed child protection register check, or (4) contained evidence that employees had convictions for offenses that should have disqualified the individuals from employment in jobs working with children. Files on all 127 employees were not maintained on the facilities' premises. In addition, UPO's driver did not meet all Federal driver-specific preemployment and training requirements. UPO's 10 childcare facilities did not meet all Federal Head Start and State requirements on protecting children from unsafe materials and equipment. Finally, six of UPO's childcare facilities did not provide a fully secure environment for the children in their care. UPO's failure to consistently comply with requirements jeopardized the health and safety of children in its care.
We recommended that UPO develop and consistently follow procedures to ensure that (1) all employee files contain evidence of checks of the child protection register and evidence of completed background checks, no applicants are hired if they have been convicted of an offense listed in District of Columbia regulations, and each facility maintains background check documentation on each employee; (2) all drivers have met Federal driver-specific requirements; (3) all unsafe materials and equipment are stored in locked areas out of the reach of children, all necessary repairs are addressed in a timely manner; all unsafe conditions are addressed, and all facilities meet State licensing requirements; and (4) all facilities are secure. In comments on our draft report, UPO concurred with most of our findings and described actions that it had taken or planned to take to address the deficiencies that we identified.
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