Safety & Injury Prevention

Identifying risks and preventing injury is fundamental to Head Start's mission. Programs must provide safe and secure places for children to learn, whether they are enrolled in home-based, center-based, or family child care options. Because young children like to explore, consistent safety practices, like using gates, locks, and other safety equipment, prevent children from getting into dangerous areas. Adults serve as role models, demonstrating and explaining safe behaviors and helping children learn to safely explore their environment. Note: These resources are under review.

New! Head Start program managers, staff, and families keep children safe by creating a culture of safety. Everyone contributes to an environment that allows people to speak up about safety concerns. They also make it all right to talk about mistakes and errors, and encourage learning from these events. Children are safer when everyone works together to improve the strategies they use in homes, centers, and the community. Explore Culture of Safety to learn more.

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Safe and Healthy Environments

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Maintaining environments that are both healthy and safe is a top priority of Head Start. Children are more likely to engage in learning when programs and families establish healthy environments and use appropriate injury prevention strategies to promote child safety and prevent injuries. The resources below will help program staff and families use research-based strategies to establish safe and healthy environments.

Transportation Safety

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In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children being transported in school buses. Transportation of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers must be established with the mutual cooperation of parents, local programs, and transportation providers. Accordingly, transportation providers need to be knowledgeable and develop practices that provide adequately for the safety of young children on school buses. Program directors and staff can refer to the resources in this section to further their understanding of what is required for transporting young children.

Environmental Protection Efforts

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The Office of Head Start, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other governmental agencies partner to identify potential environmental concerns and provide strategies for reducing or eliminating the risk of exposure. Pollutants or contaminants that may affect the health of children can be found in air, water, food, and soil. Programs must reduce or eliminate contaminants in the air children breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat. Families must receive information and support to remove or minimize environmental issues at home. Explore the links below to learn about various environmental protection efforts and strategies to make centers and homes healthy.

Hygiene, Sanitation, and Universal Precautions

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Good hygiene, proper sanitation, and consistently following universal precautions in early childhood settings is essential for reducing health risks to children and adults by limiting the spread of infectious germs. Adults model healthy hygiene practices and teach them to children so they will develop the habits that they will use throughout their lives. Compliance with appropriate sanitation measures and universal precautions protects the health and safety of everyone.

Medication Administration

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The proper storage of medication and its administration by trained staff safeguards the health of children, families, and staff. Programs must develop, implement, and monitor policies and procedures for administrating medication that meet both Head Start regulations and any applicable state laws relating to medication administration. A review of the links below will provide additional guidance.

Child Abuse and Neglect

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Children who are cared for and nurtured can grow up to be happy and healthy adults. However, harsh discipline, inconsistent nurturing, or the lack of a caring adult to form an attachment with can produce long-lasting consequences and can affect children's' health, well-being, and relationships with others.

Domestic Violence

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With violence and other dangers escalating in the streets, workplace, and home, the issue of family and staff safety is one of mounting concern. Families who are experiencing domestic violence are more likely to be living in a crisis situation. Action must be taken at all program levels to make family and staff safety a priority. Find useful tools and resources below.

Last Reviewed: February 2017

Last Updated: March 27, 2017