'Head Start' Safety Violations Show We Don't Care About Low-Income Kids

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broken playgroundWarning: What you're about to read will most likely make you angry, sick, and depressed. Particularly if you find the thought of economically disadvantaged preschoolers being stuck with broken playground equipment and teachers who may or may not be criminals disturbing.

Oh, it gets even better! Rickety swings are nothing compared to some of the safety violations found at Head Start centers across the country. Among the horrifying circumstances revealed by a recent report from the Health and Human Services Department: Broken gates leading out to parking lots and streets, toxic chemicals stored where little ones can easily get them -- even items as ridiculously dangerous as a machete and a gas-powered hedge trimmer being left out in the playground area.

Did I mention your taxpayer dollars pay for this stellar early childhood education program?

Or they're supposed to pay for it, anyway. But either the government's budget for Head Start is too small (whoa, stop yelling! I didn't say that's what I think personally! I'm just making a point!) or the estimated $7 billion per year that's theoretically being funneled into the future of our youth is going somewhere else entirely.

I don't know what goes on behind closed Congress doors. What I do know about Head Start is based on firsthand observations from my previous incarnation as a local news reporter, and it boils down to this: The government talks a good talk when it comes to public education and the creation of a level academic playing field and early intervention and community support. By the time you flip through one of those press kits filled with supportive statistics and full color photos of shiny, happy students, you're practically sold on the guarantee of a brighter tomorrow.

That changes the second you physically step inside the door of a facility like the ones cited in that report from the Health and Human Services Department.

It's essentially the same feeling you get when that luxury hotel from the brochure turns out to be a fleabag motel with a flickering neon sign. This can't be the place ... it doesn't look anything like the pictures ...

This disappointing reality extends beyond Head Start programs, unfortunately. Public schools in low-income areas nationwide fight many of the same battles.

I know these are complex issues and no easy solution exists. But come on ... a machete on the playground? There's simply no excuse.

Do you have any experience with the Head Start program? Positive or negative?


Image via Mirian Bruckschen/Flickr

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Mamab... MamabearC

A long time ago I occasionally volunteered in the local Head Start and found that the equipment whether it be for education or playing was old and outdated though I don't recall any of it being a safety hazard.They really should get on the ball with this, either do it right or not at all....

Becky Pries

My special needs son was in a Headstart program when he was 3. One day when I went to pick him up, he was sitting in his chair and had slipped down in the straps. The strap was around his neck. I dont know if it just happened or if he was like that for awhile. A few days after this, I went to get him and he was sound asleep on a changing table where he could have easily fallen off. Both incidents had nothing to do with underfunding. They were simply bad teachers. He never went back after that

Jecky... Jeckyls-mommy

I don't see the problem with criminals teaching....as long as they aren't child molesters or ax murders and have proved they learned from their mistakes, I don't think it should matter. As the child of one, I think it's bull shit how many things criminals get deprived of from jobs to involvement in school activities such as going on field trips with their child. Granted if they still have track marks on thief arms or tin foil in their purse, then by all means keep them out. But it's not fairthatthe reformed ones can't do these things, including teach. People make mistakes. Doesn't mean they should be cut off from jobs.

mom2m... mom2monsterboys

Even worse, my friend works at a state run daycare. The things she tells me are horrible. She says that the parents arent allowed to directly drop/pick-up infants from the infant room. Why? Well thats because they leave the babies in a crib all day to cry. Why? Well because they have a 7-1 infant ratio, and arent truthful about it to the parents. Also when new parents are there to check things out, they send half of the kids out to play so they cant see that the toddler rooms are being run at a 14-1 ratio. They lie about the so called learning things that are done on a day to day basis (they arent doing anything they say they are. Theres a lot more going on than that, but its an awful lot to type out. Shes been there less than a month and is currently looking for a new job. Shes also in the process of reporting this to the proper people. Saddest part? Not only is this a public daycare/school, its also a chartered school. Worse than that? Its in a very expensive area so these parents are paying a lot of money to send their kids to this "great" place. Disgusting.

dixie... dixiechick2

All three of my kids attened Headstart. I have no complaints.

KTMOM KTMOM

I have no experience with it at all.

Fallaya Fallaya

I guess I lucked out.  My dd goes to Head Start and the facility is very nice.  I have no complaints.

Nanna... NannaBanana1983

I could write a book on the problems I had with the early headstart our son attended. I pulled him out after two months because of their complete lack of respect for any questions I had about their policies. We are in the process of adopting our son from the state. He used to have to scavenge for food so he still has a problem understanding there will be more food later. I tried to explain that to the administration and the teachers. They would allow him to eat three or four full servings of snacks and meals because he kept asking for more. He gained two pounds the first three weeks. I would pick him up and when we got to the car he would start crying. He couldn't climb in his carseat because he was so full. "mama, poo poo. Tummy hurts". He even pooped his pants washing his hands after lunch one day because he was so full. I repeatedly called the main administrative building and the nutritionist. No one ever called me back.

Hot_M... Hot_Mamma_of_2

Both my kids are in the Early Head Start and Head Start. I've had no issues with them.

Pnukey Pnukey

I am not a fan of head start and have nothing nice to say about it. This article doesn't surprise me.

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