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In Wake Of Sullivan County Head Start Closure, Rep. Molinaro Calls On Federal Government To Provide Stronger Oversight Of Program

Liberty, NY – U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) today called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which administers Head Start through the Office of Head Start (OHS), to provide stronger oversight over local Head Start programs like the one in Sullivan County.

Earlier this month, Sullivan Head Start abruptly closed, leaving hundreds of children and families without education and childcare services, and many providers without a job. This closure occurred, despite there being federal funding available for Sullivan Head Start to continue operating. Since then, Rep. Molinaro has worked to investigate the circumstances surrounding the closure, connected over 60 impacted families with alternative facilities, and is assisting Sullivan County in finding a new temporary and permanent Head Start provider.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Rep. Molinaro highlighted the need for stronger oversight and communication from HHS to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. Rep. Molinaro also requested additional information from HHS on why Sullivan County Head Start closed and when the agency possessed such information.

Rep. Molinaro said, "The closure of Sullivan Head Start is impacting hundreds of children, families, and providers. While we continue our work to find a new temporary and permanent provider in Sullivan County, we also need to take steps now to prevent an incident like this from ever happening again. I’m calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to step up and implement strong oversight measures of the Head Start program.”

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Secretary Becerra,

As you may know, earlier this month, the Sullivan Head Start located in Sullivan County, New York abruptly closed its doors to hundreds of students and families. My office worked tirelessly to get to the bottom of what had occurred and to connect families who were suddenly stuck without vital education and childcare services to facilities that could accommodate them.

The more I learned about what led to the eventual closing of the Sullivan Head Start, the more it became clear there is a need for improved oversight and communication. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must work to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again.

Below are several questions directly derived from the communities impacted by this closure:

  1. Why did the Sullivan Head Start close so abruptly?
  2. What are the oversight functions HHS employs on Head Start facilities across the United States?
  3. More specifically, what information about the Sullivan Head Start did HHS have ahead of the closure that may have indicated a forthcoming closure?
  4. What systems are in place at HHS to ensure Head Start students do not face service interruptions?
  5. What notification requirements are in place to ensure families are given an adequate warning about potential Head Start service interruptions?  

I believe we can agree this is an unprecedented incident that cannot occur again. Taking steps to prevent this from happening anywhere in America can only be a benefit and ought to be a goal.