HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of Head Start staff members returned to work anxious and worried after the holidays. The 307 employees who work at seven Head Start centers in Harrison County are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. And more than 1,300 low income families may no longer have a place to send their three and four year old children to school.
WLOX News first reported two weeks ago federal funding has been taken away from The Gulf Coast Community Action Agency for the Head Start programs following an investigation into five incident reports of child abuse at South Mississippi centers.
Contractor for The Gulf Coast Community Action Agency Karen Sock said Monday agency officials are appealing the loss of federal funds and they have confidence they will win that appeal.
A letter from The US Department of Health and Human Services stated GCCAA received an overview report of the incidents in April, and GCCAA was instructed to take immediate corrective action to make sure incidents of physical abuse didn't happen again, but GCCAA had not done so.
Sock, however, said that is not true.
"The staff members involved in the five incidents were suspended immediately after the agency learned of the abuse," Sock said, "and after an investigation was completed, they were terminated."
Sock also said those involved in the abuse did have the appropriate training and there are signed documents in all of the employees folders proving that.
The Community Action Agency has 13 days left to file the appeal. Sock said agency leaders have been working with The Head Start Program to address all concerns and file the appeal.
A new interim director has been hired and will take over the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency on Monday. WLOX News will continue to follow this story and we hope to learn more when the new director begins.