Head Start Background Checks: Compliance Date Delayed

Head Start Background Checks: Compliance Date Delayed

The Office of Head Start has again delayed the effective date for the new background check requirement outlined in the Head Start Program Performance Standards.  The effective date for the background check requirement is now September 30, 2019.

What are we required to do until September 30, 2019?

Until September 30, 2019, programs must follow at a minimum the requirements set forth in the Head Start Act at § 648A(g), unless stricter state requirements apply.  The Head Start Act requires programs to:

  • conduct an interview
  • verify personal and employment references, and
  • obtain a state, tribal, or federal criminal record check
    • that covers all jurisdictions where the grantee provides Head Start services to children;
    • that is required by the law in the jurisdiction where the grantee provides Head Start services; or
    • that is otherwise required by federal law.

What will we be required to do on and after September 30, 2019?

The new background check requirement (found at 45 CFR §1302.90) requires Head Start programs to perform a comprehensive background check for new hires, which includes an interview, verification of references, and four checks (state/tribal criminal records, FBI criminal records, sex offender registry, and child abuse and neglect registry).

The timeline looks like this:

Before hire:

  • conduct an interview,
  • verify references,
  • conduct a sex offender registry check, and
  • obtain EITHER state or tribal criminal history records, with fingerprints, OR FBI criminal history records, with fingerprints.

Within 90 days of hire:

  • obtain state/tribal or FBI criminal history records with fingerprints (whichever was not obtained prior to hire), and
  • conduct a child abuse and neglect state registry check.

Until the entire background check is complete, a program must not allow the person to have unsupervised access to children.

Programs are required to repeat the four checks (state/tribal criminal records, FBI criminal records, sex offender registry and child abuse and neglect registry) every five years.

Why does the effective date keep changing?

To perform a comprehensive background check, Head Start programs are reliant on States to provide programs with access to the required background checks.  States were required by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG Act) to provide such access. P.L. No. 113-186 § 658H (Nov. 2014).

States, however, have been slow to comply with the CCDBG Act, and the effective date of the Head Start background check requirement was delayed from August 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017, then September 30, 2018, and now September 30, 2019.  The most recent delay of the effective date comes on the heels of a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services noting that Colorado has yet to implement all of the background check requirements under the CCDBG Act, despite making progress in implementing some aspects of the background check requirements.

Where can we find more information?

The official document extending the compliance date can be found here. (Note, until September 26, 2018, you’ll need to download the document from the link provided).

A Program Instruction from the Office of Head Start can be found here. (Note, this program instruction sets forth an effective date of September 30, 2017, but that effective date has been changed to September 30, 2019.  The other information in the PI is helpful in understanding the background check requirement).

Interested in more information about hiring and retention?  Register for a special session of our Hiring and Retention webinar.

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