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DCF Letter Details Urban League Violations

Tuesday, the Federal Government suspended the Jacksonville Urban League's management of Head Start and Early Head Start programs, citing potential health and safety risks for children and staff.

The decision came after Florida Department of Children and Families Northeast Regional Director David J. Abramowitz sent a letter to Urban League president Richard Danford, detailing a "consistent pattern of licensing violations indicating a disregard for the wellbeing of the children the facilities are to serve."

Some of the violations outlined in the letter:

  • At the Northeast Springfield Head Start, a three year old child was left in a bus all day, without food, without bathroom breaks, and with no supervision. It notes that had the season been different, the child likely would have died.
  • A driver at the same facility dropped a student off at a bus stop with no parent or guardian to meet the child. The center was fined for this incident on November 15. 2012 and not even two months later (January 2, 2013) the same thing happened again.
  • At the Normandy Head Start, a person who had not received a background screening was left alone in charge of a group of 20 children.
  • Again at the Normandy facility a four year old child climbed the fence and was gone for approximately two hours before the staff noticed him missing. A maintenance man found the child sitting by the gate, scratched up and dirty.
  • In the past two years, Head Start programs in Jacksonville have been cited eight times for using physical discipline in the classroom, nine times for inadequate supervision, twelve times for being in poor repair and eight times for fences that were broken or were not secure.

Abramowitz closes the letter with an offer to meet with Danford, and expresses concern that repairs have been slow and corrective actions haven't worked:

The Jacksonville Head Start Programs have historically been very good child care centers with few violations and never anything serious that would jeopardize child safety. This new trend is alarming.

The Federal Government says this letter, along with evidence gathered during an on-site monitoring visit in late March, led to the 30-day suspension.

President Richard Danford said in a written statement that for the past several months the Jacksonville Early Head Start and Head Start Management Team  have been working with state and federal agencies to improve the quality of the Head Start programs.

“Some of our people have made some mistakes. Unfortunately, after the courts failed to support terminating employees for non-compliance with OHS and Urban League rules, there has been an increase in issues of non-compliance by a minority of employees,” Danford said.

Karen found her home in public broadcasting after working for several years as a commercial television reporter. She joinedWJCTin 2005 as the host of 89.9 FM’s Morning Edition and has held many different roles at the station in both radio and television. She has written and produced documentaries includingBeluthahatchee: The Legacy of Stetson Kennedy and Jacksonville Beach: Against the Tide and directed the oral history project, Voices of the First Coast.