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Review of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation'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 (ACF), Office of Head Start, we found that the District of Columbia (the District) Department of Parks and Recreation (the delegate Grantee), a Head Start delegate agency for the 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 provides an additional $2.1 billion for the program during FYs 2009 and 2010.

As of July 2009, the files on all 43 of the delegate Grantee's employees (1) lacked evidence of a completed child protection register check, (2) lacked evidence of compliance with 1 or more other Federal or State preemployment requirements, and (3) were not maintained on the facility premises. In addition, the delegate Grantee's 15 drivers did not meet all Federal driver-specific preemployment and training requirements. Finally, the delegate Grantee's 10 childcare facilities did not meet all Federal Head Start and State requirements on protecting children from unsafe materials and equipment and did not provide a fully secure environment for the children in their care. (The delegate Grantee has since left the Head Start program, and UPO has closed 5 of the 10 facilities.) The delegate Grantee's failure to comply with requirements jeopardized the health and safety of children in its care.

We recommended that UPO develop and consistently follow procedures for the five remaining facilities 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 regulations, and each facility maintains background check documentation on each employee on the premises; (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. UPO concurred with our recommendations and described its actions to address the deficiencies that we identified.

Filed under: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services