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The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Human Services May Not Have Provided Head Start Services to the Neediest Children

We conducted this review in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Interior to determine whether the U.S. Virgin Islands (Virgin Islands) Department of Human Services (DHS) ensured that the neediest children received priority when filling Head Start enrollment slots. Children are automatically eligible for enrollment in the Head Start program if they are homeless, in foster care, or a recipient of public assistance. (For reporting purposes, we refer to these children as categorically eligible.) In addition, grantees are required to fill 10 percent of their funded enrollment with children with disabilities who need special education and related services.

We could not determine whether the neediest children in the Virgin Islands received priority when DHS filled Head Start enrollment slots because DHS (1) entered inaccurate information in its electronic database of enrollee information when calculating children's financial eligibility, (2) did not retain documents used to determine whether enrollees were categorically eligible, and (3) did not meet the required enrollment level for children with disabilities.

We determined that 11 of the 100 children in our random sample received more priority selection points than they should have. On the basis of our sample results, we estimated that 84 children-nearly 1 in every 10-enrolled in the Head Start program as of August 31, 2010, received more priority selection points than they should have, potentially placing them in the Head Start program ahead of needier children on the program's waiting list because DHS retains waiting list priority rankings only for the current enrollment.

We recommended that DHS ensure that the neediest children receive priority when filling Head Start enrollment slots by (1) ensuring that financial eligibility determinations are based on accurate information, (2) retaining a record of the documents reviewed and relied upon to determine whether a child is categorically eligible, and (3) ensuring that the enrollment and/or waiver requirements are met for children with disabilities. DHS generally concurred with our findings and recommendations.

Filed under: Administration for Children and Families