Undercover investigators trying to enroll a handful of fictitious children in federally funded Head Start child care centers found that in about half of the cases, workers fraudulently misrepresented parents’ incomes, addresses and other information to allow kids to qualify for a slot.
In one instance, according to the investigators’ report, a Head Start worker in New Jersey handed back one of two pay stubs and told an investigator posing as a parent, “Now you see it, now you don’t.”
Prompted by anonymous tips to a fraud hotline, investigators with the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at centers in six states — California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia. In 13 of 15 cases, they tried to enroll children whose family incomes made them ineligible. In two more, families qualified but GAO wanted to find out if Head Start would count children as enrolled even if they never attended the program. In all, investigators found fraud in eight cases.