Head Start: Undercover Testing Finds Fraud and Abuse at Selected Head Start Centers Page: 22 of 30
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newspaper, the state of Florida has 8,000 students on wait lists for Head
Start programs. A newspaper in Indiana, reported that a program in
Indiana that serves 380 students has 170 students on the wait list. It is
important to note that we found a range of openings in the centers we
called. While several grantees reported that they had lengthy wait lists,
other grantees were eager to accept our fictitious, over-income children to
fill their rolls. The center in New Jersey that accepted our fictitious over-
income family told us that it had more than 30 openings. Another center in
California, which did not accept our application, told us that it had 40 part-
day openings. We did not validate the actual number of students on
waitlists in these centers.
Eligible Applicants Cannot
Be Admitted Because of
Lack of Space
We contacted 21 families who at the time of interview were on wait lists
for Head Start programs. We received a list of 1,600 wait list applicants
from a Head Start grantee in Texas-of these, we attempted to call the 30
families who were at the top of the waitlist and we were able to speak to
11 families. We also received a wait list of 30 applicants for services in
Pennsylvania-we attempted to speak to all 30 families and of these we
were able to speak to 10 families. We asked applicants for information on
the length of time they spent on the wait list, on the family's economic
situation, and whether they had been affected by being waitlisted for Head
Start services. Several of the applicants we spoke with described
circumstances that made them especially strong candidates for Head Start,
including receiving other types of public assistance, such as Medicaid or
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or having histories of domestic abuse.
Additionally, several applicants reported that family members were unable
to accept work opportunities as a result of not being able to enroll
children in Head Start, or experienced additional financial strain because
they had to pay child care costs. Many applicants also cited concerns that
their children would not be adequately prepared for school. Given the
relative ease with which GAO employees posing as fictitious parents were
able to qualify for Head Start services, it is possible that some over-income
or otherwise ineligible children are currently enrolled in Head Start
programs while low-income children are put on wait lists and do not
receive necessary services. For example, when a center manipulates
information to make it appear that an over-income family is a low-income
family this possibly takes up a Head Start slot set aside for a low-income
family. Although OHS does not currently collect information that would
allow it to determine what percent of Head Start centers have a wait list,
the majority of centers we called reported that they had a wait list. We did
not attempt to verify the applicants' statements.
GAO-10-1049 Head Start
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Head Start: Undercover Testing Finds Fraud and Abuse at Selected Head Start Centers, report, September 28, 2010; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296264/m1/22/: accessed May 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.