Organization that dropped local Head Start programs under investigation

The nonprofit that abruptly quit operating 10 Head Start programs in Glendale and Pasadena last week has been under scrutiny for months regarding its use of funds, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Center for Community and Family Services, which closed its Head Start locations Friday, has been under investigation by the federal agency’s Office of Inspector General since April, said department spokesman Kenneth Wolfe.

“This didn’t come out of thin air. This is because of financial irregularities with the organization,” Wolfe said. “It was spending a lot more than it was receiving.”

The Center for Community and Family Services had received $12 million a year to operate an estimated 15 Head Start programs in Glendale, Pasadena and other cities that served 1,397 children, Wolfe said. But the nonprofit appears to have a $5.1-million operating deficit, he added.

It was unclear whether the red ink was exclusively related to Head Start or if other operations were a factor, Wolfe said.

Teena Smith, communications director for the Center for Community and Family Services, rebuffed claims that the nonprofit was being audited or under investigation.

“That’s ridiculous. That’s not true,” Smith said Wednesday, although she refused to discuss the nonprofit’s finances.

The Center for Community and Family Services also administers state child development programs and other services, and owns and operates 78 affordable housing units in Northwest Pasadena that are partially subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“Our question was, ‘Can you [continue to] run the program or not?’ Their answer was they can’t,” Wolfe said.

Donald White, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, said he could not confirm whether an audit or investigation is in progress, citing office protocol.

After the Center for Community and Family Services announced it would no longer operate the Head Start programs, federal officials brought in Community Development Institute Head Start as an interim fix in the hopes of reopening the locations by Oct. 17.

Brushing off any more questions about the organization, Smith said “my bigger issue is trying to get some staff back to work.”


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