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Review of 24 Head Start Grantees' Compliance With Health and Safety Requirements

Of the 24 Head Start grantees that we reviewed, none complied fully with Federal Head Start or State requirements to protect children from unsafe materials and equipment, and 21 of 24 grantees did not comply fully with Federal Head Start or State requirements to conduct criminal records checks, conduct recurring background checks, document criminal records checks, conduct checks of childcare exclusion lists, or conduct checks of child abuse and neglect registries. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided an additional $2.1 billion for Head Start during fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

The State requirements varied. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) could adopt some of the State-specific requirements for background checks to better protect the health and safety of children. Those State requirements included periodic fingerprinting, conducting recurring background checks, and developing an exclusion list to deny employment to individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes.

We recommended that ACF (1) ensure through onsite monitoring that Head Start grantees comply with health and safety regulations; (2) perform an analysis to determine whether it should seek a legislative amendment of Federal health and safety requirements that would require periodic background checks for all Head Start employees; and (3) amend current policy and regulations to require that any prospective or current employee be disqualified for or terminated from employment with a Head Start grantee if the individual has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child, other forms of child abuse and neglect, or a violent felony.

In written comments on our draft report, ACF stated that it is analyzing our recommendation to implement periodic background checks of all Head Start employees. In addition, ACF stated that it is analyzing the need for legislative action related to implementing periodic background checks, its regulatory authority to change the current requirements for background checks, and its authority to amend current policies related to background checks.

Filed under: Administration for Children and Families