Safety Practices

Letter to the Head Start Community About Child Safety

Dear Head Start grant recipients and delegate agencies,

As I reflect on my first year with the Office of Head Start (OHS), I want to take a moment to personally thank you for all your hard work in this year alone. I have had the opportunity to visit many Head Start programs and learn from staff and the families we serve. I have met wonderful parents, caregivers, and children. I wish you the very best as we continue our journey of recovery, response, and renewal.

I am feeling refreshed and, at the same time, a sense of urgency for all the important work that we collectively do to provide quality services to the country’s most vulnerable children and families. At its heart, the Head Start program lifts up and partners with families to break the cycle of poverty. Our programs give children the tools they need to succeed in school and ensure families are connected to the resources they need to thrive in their communities. Head Start programs also give parents the opportunity to support their families while their children are cared for in a safe and nurturing environment.

With this mission in mind, I want to reiterate Deputy Assistant Secretary Hamm’s Child Safety in Head Start Programs message by asking each one of you to remain vigilant in prioritizing child safety in all Head Start programs, centers, and classrooms.

We recognize and commend grant recipients for responding to ACF-IM-HS-22-07 Reporting Child Health and Safety Incidents and reporting significant incidents affecting the health and safety of children. Over the past few months, OHS has seen an increase in the number of reports. We appreciate grant recipients’ prompt reporting of these concerns so that we can partner together to prevent additional incidents and maintain safe, nurturing learning environments for all Head Start children. We have also noticed an increase in adults speaking and reacting inappropriately to children in their care, which violates our Head Start Program Performance Standards and also puts children at risk.

As each Head Start program aims to create and foster a culture of program safety, it is critical to support staff well-being and maintain high standards of conduct. It is always a great time to strengthen your mental health supports, wellness practices, staffing structure, classroom ratios, policies, procedures, and staff awareness of the standards of conduct. Revisit your plans for training, onboarding, and supporting new staff to make sure all program staff implement positive strategies to support children’s well-being and understand developmentally appropriate practice.

Your program specialist and regional training and technical assistance specialists are available to help identify resources to support your program as you continue this important work.

With the highest priority on ensuring all Head Start children are safe, and proper reporting of child incidents to OHS when they do occur, together we can provide our children and families with high quality services and fulfill the mission of the Head Start program.

Thank you for the work you do every day for children and families.

/ Tala Q. Hooban /

Tala Q. Hooban, CDR, U.S. Public Health Service
Acting Director
Office of Head Start