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Review of Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, Inc.'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 Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, Inc. (the Grantee), located in New York State, 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 provides an additional $2.1 billion for the program during FYs 2009 and 2010.

As of October 2009, the Grantee had not obtained criminal background checks, timely criminal background checks, and/or child abuse and maltreatment checks on 27 of its 92 Head Start employees. In addition, two of the five busdrivers employed by the Grantee did not have a timely tuberculosis screening or medical examination. Furthermore, 9 of the Grantee's 10 childcare facilities did not meet all Federal Head Start and State regulations on protecting children from unsafe materials and equipment. The Grantee's failure to consistently comply with requirements jeopardized the health and safety of children in its care.

We recommended that the Grantee develop and consistently follow procedures to ensure that (1) all employee files contain documentation of timely criminal background checks and child abuse and maltreatment register checks, (2) all busdrivers have an initial health examination that includes screening for tuberculosis, and (3) all unsanitary and unsafe conditions are corrected in a timely manner. In written comments on our draft report, the Grantee generally concurred with our findings and described its completed and ongoing actions to address deficiencies that we identified.

Filed under: Administration for Children and Families