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Review of North Coast Opportunities, 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 North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (the Grantee), located in California, 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 April 2010, the Grantee had not obtained criminal record checks or signed statements regarding criminal history for 10 of its 159 employees. The Grantee also did not obtain criminal record checks on six employees until after they were hired, and the files on four other employees did not contain the required documentation of criminal record clearances. In addition, the Grantee's 13 childcare facilities did not meet all Federal Head Start and State requirements for protecting children from unsafe materials and equipment. Furthermore, two of these facilities 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 strengthen and consistently follow its existing procedures to ensure that (1) criminal record checks are obtained before hiring employees and all employee files contain documentation of criminal record clearances or exemptions and employee signed statements regarding criminal history and (2) all unsafe materials and equipment are stored in locked areas out of the reach of children, other unsafe conditions are addressed, and all facilities are secure. In comments on our draft report, the Grantee described its completed and ongoing actions to address the deficiencies that we identified.

Filed under: Administration for Children and Families