FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Blair Hyatt
PHSA Executive Director
717-645-0155 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PHSA Joins HHS in Calling for Stronger Accountability and
Oversight of Head Start Programs
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Blair Hyatt, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Head Start Association, joined the Department of Health and Human Services in calling for stronger accountability and oversight of Head Start programs in light of today’s GAO report.
At the May 18, 2010 US House Education and Labor Committee hearing, “Examining GAO’s Review of Selected Head Start Grantees” testimony about an ongoing GAO investigation revealed eight instances when employees of Head Start programs made determinations that children were eligible for Head Start services despite being given evidence that the families’ income were above the eligibility limit.
“Our membership is deeply troubled by the results of the GAO report,” stated Blair Hyatt, Executive Director of the PHSA. “We take the allegations made in the report very seriously. Our grantees are dedicated to providing the highest quality services and programming to low income kids and families. We applaud HHS and the Office of Head Start for quickly launching several accountability steps that will immediately improve oversight. Only properly run, high quality programs should be in the Head Start business. Head Start children and families deserve nothing less.”
As a result of the report the Department of Health and Human Services has taken swift action by doing the following:
1. Issuing guidance to grantees on their legal obligations to verify eligibility and to maintain accurate records.
2. Beginning unannounced site visits of local programs as a supplement to the current monitoring process.
3. Setting up a new web based “hotline” so that employees, parents, and citizens can report any wrong-doing.
Every year in Pennsylvania, over 40,000 of the state’s most vulnerable children and their families benefit from participating in a Head Start program. Compliance with eligibility regulations lies at the very heart of the Head Start mission. Determining eligibility can be complex- some children are categorically eligible such as homeless and foster children. Others require eligibility determination base on family income. Regulations require programs verify whether families are income eligible for Head Start.
“While we are concerned that it appears that a program in Pennsylvania was not following the federally mandate regulations for income eligibility, we believe that this does not represent how the majority of our highly respected, quality Head Start programs operate,” said Hyatt.