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Review of Head Start Health and Safety Standards at Advocates for Children and Families, Inc.

As part of a series of reviews requested by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Head Start, we found that Advocates for Children and Families, Inc. (the Grantee), located in Texas, 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 February 2010, the files on 28 of the Grantee's 130 employees did not contain evidence of all required background checks. Although the files on the 102 remaining employees contained evidence of the required background checks, the Grantee did not always request these checks when they were due. In addition, 13 of the Grantee's 15 childcare facilities that we visited did not meet all Federal Head Start and State requirements on protecting children from unsafe materials and equipment. Finally, 7 of the Grantee's 15 childcare facilities that we visited did not provide a fully secure environment for the children in their care. The Grantee's failure to consistently comply with requirements jeopardized the health and safety of children in its care.

We recommended that the Grantee share this report with Community Development Institute (CDI), which currently operates the Grantee's Head Start program, to ensure that (1) required background checks are completed when due, (2) all unsafe conditions are corrected and all necessary repairs are addressed in a timely manner, and (3) all facilities are secure. The Grantee stated that it had no staff to verify whether the deficiencies noted in the report had been corrected because ACF had suspended financial assistance to the Grantee's Head Start program. The Grantee added that CDI, ACF's national interim management contractor, would operate the Head Start program during the suspension. We revised our recommendations to reflect CDI's role during the grant suspension period.

Filed under: Administration for Children and Families