CCDBG Moving Forward – Helpful Resources on the New Law

teaserWith the signing of S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law, now the focus will shift to ensuring that those across the country which these changes will directly impact, are aware of when and how this law will affect them.  In order to assist states and child care resource and referral agencies across America, Child Care Aware of America will be providing resources to help provide a better understanding of what’s in the law and what changes are going to be necessary to be made.

In addition to our four-part CCDBG Moving Forward Webinar Series, which focused on implementation and concluded in early-November, Child Care Aware of America is excited to share new resources on CCDBG, including:

NEW RESOURCES for Implementation of new CCDBG Law:

CCDBG Moving Forward Resources:

One-Pagers/Subject Briefs:

Summary and Background
Timeline for Implementation
Impact on Child Care Resource and Referral Services
The Quality Set-Aside
Quality Rating and Improvement Systems
Health, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention

CCDBG Moving Foward Webinar Series Slides:

The history and current status of S.1086
What S.1086 means for families & child care providers
What S.1086 means for quality set aside and QRIS
Funding, appropriations, & timelines for implementation

To view any of the recorded webinars, check out our Youtube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CCAofAmerica

and much more to come!

Coming Soon!

  • Information on Funding and Appropriations
  • One-pager on Emergency Preparedness and Response
  • Answers to Frequently Asked Question about the New Law
  • White Papers on implementation and challenges

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes CCDBG Reauthorization Bill: Day 2 Recap

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.21.44 PMIn an effort to significantly improve the quality of child care across the nation and to prove that it is possible for the Senate to work in regular order, in a bipartisan manner.  By a vote of 96-2, the Senate approved S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, turning the focus over to the House of Representatives for action.

The Senators voting in favor of passage for the bill included 53 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and 2 Independents.  Only Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) voted against the measure, while Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) did not vote on the bill.

Throughout the second day of Senator floor consideration for S.1086, the Senate adopted 10 amendments covering a wide-range of topics related to the bill.  Nine of the amendments were adopted by voice vote, while only one of the amendments was adopted by a roll call vote, Senator Coburn’s measure to help ensure that child care assistance is not being supplied to those with an income greater than $1 million annually.

The country has definitely taken notice as the passage of the bipartisan S.1086 has led headlines. To read more about the media’s take on the passage of the bill, check out this article from Politico – Senate passes child care bill

While passage out of the Senate was an important step forward to improving the quality of child care, the process is far from finished as the House of Representatives will be pressured to take action.  The good news is that the prospects coming out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee have seemingly increased the odds that CCDBG Reauthorization will be looked at in this upcoming year.

Today, immediately following the passage of S.1086 out of the Senate, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) released this statement:

“Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a step forward in the shared goal of strengthening the nation’s existing network of early childhood services. The bill includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care programs, such as Head Start. The committee will convene a hearing on March 25, 2014 to examine House priorities for CCDBG, and I look forward to a productive discussion as we work to find common ground and complete the reauthorization of this important program.”

This is a huge win for working families in this country.  This bill contains many common-sense measures for helping protect children in child care, such as requiring providers to undergo comprehensive background checks, ensuring annual inspections are conducted and requiring childcare providers receive training on CPR, first aid, and safe sleep practices.

We are one step closer to ensuring children are safe and receiving quality early learning experiences while in child care. The research is clear, children’s early years are proven to be the most important time to create strong learners. This bill sets the standard families expect for their children.

Please join us to thank the Senate for standing up for children and working families by voting yes to reauthorize CCDBG.

Click here to thank your Senator for voting Yes on S.1086

Senate Takes Up CCDBG Reauthorization: Day 1 Recap

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) kicked off the floor action on the bill earlier this morning and stated, “In the two decades since this important program was last authorized, we’ve learned a great deal about the importance of early childhood education and high-quality child care. This bipartisan measure builds on that knowledge, it updates health and safety standards for child-care centers and requires providers to undergo comprehensive background checks.”  After moving onto roll-call votes for nominations and finishing those votes, the four Senators leading the effort took the floor for their opening remarks:

Excerpts from the remarks:

“Each year, the Child Care and Development Block Grant program helps more than 1.5 million low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee, have the kind of early learning and care that can help put them on the same starting line as other children.  The program works because it supports parents going to work or getting an education, and gives them the freedom to choose the child care that is right for their family.”-       Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

“Every family in America with children is concerned about child care. They wonder if it’s available. They wonder if it’s affordable. They worry if it’s safe. And they’re also concerned if it helps their children be ready to learn.  These worries weigh heavily on the shoulders of parents everywhere. Our bill helps lift that burden – giving families and children the child care they need.  This bill, as I said, is the product of bipartisan effort.  Child care is something all families worry about regardless of zip code or income. This bill ensures that all children have the care that they need and deserve. What we did was focus on what these needs are. “-       Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the rest of the speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) Floor Speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Status of Amendments:

As a bipartisan bill from the beginning, working through regular order, S. 1086 has become seen as a beacon of hope for the Senate to return to regular order as the norm, not the exception.  To encourage participation throughout the Upper Chamber, Senators Burr and Mikulski pushed their colleagues to submit related amendments to the bill for a quality discussion on where the bill could stand to improve.  By day’s end, the number of submitted amendments for S.1086 totaled around 20, with some already receiving debate and votes.  The following list will provide background on the amendment, the sponsors of that amendment, and whether any action was taken on that amendment.

The Amendments:
 
No.  2805
Sponsors: Fischer (R-NE), King (I-ME), Rubio (R-FL)
Summary: Would limit the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to regulate non-diagnostic medical software
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2807
Sponsors: Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would allow for tax deduction of child care expenses of up to $7,000 for 1 qualifying child and up to $14,000 for 2 or more qualifying children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2808
Sponsors: Murphy (D-CT)
Summary:  Would increase dollar limitation on tax exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2809
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Burr (R-NC)
Summary: Would amend Section 231 of the Crime Control Act of 1990 by enhancing background check requirements for individuals working with children.  The Boxer/Burr Amendment would apply the same comprehensive background check requirement to federal lands that S. 1086 requires of states.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2810
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would make changes to the IRS Tax Code by provides increases to the Employer-provided Child Care Credit and the Dependent Care Credit, creating a new credit for individuals holding child care-related degrees who work in licensed child care facilities, and a credit for providers who meet certain measures.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2811
Sponsors: Harkin (D-IA)
Summary: Would clarify “rural and remote areas” as underserved populations.
Actions: Submitted, Harkin (D-IA) submitted substitute, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2812
Sponsors:  Enzi (R-WY)
Summary:  Would require the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Department of Education to conduct a review of all early learning and care programs to develop a plan to eliminate duplicative and overlapping programs and make recommendations for streamlining all programs.  Report would be due to Congress within 1 year of enactment.
Actions:  Adopted 98-0
 
No.  2813
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Grassley (R-IA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would allow children in foster care to receive services under the CCDBG Act while their families (including foster families) are taking necessary action to comply with immunization and other health and safety
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2814
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Blunt (R-KS), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would require the state plan to describe how the state will coordinate the services supported to carry out the CCDBG Act with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2815
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary: Would require the state plan to describe how the state will develop and       implement strategies to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2816
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would require each child care staff member providing direct services to children has earned a degree, which may be an associate’s degree or a baccalaureate degree, in early childhood education or a closely related field; and on and after a provided date, the child care provider will hire only individuals who have earned that degree.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2817
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would not more than 1% be reserved for the Secretary to conduct a “Quality and effectiveness evaluation,” which would evaluate the quality and effectiveness of activities carried out, using scientifically valid research methodologies, in order to increase the understanding of State and local program administrators concerning the practices and strategies most likely to produce positive outcomes.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2818
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Mikulski (D-MD)
Summary:  Would require that the State plan shall demonstrate the manner in which the State will address the needs of children in child care services provided through programs authorized under this subchapter, including the need for safe child care, during the period before, during, and after a state of emergency declared by the Governor or a major disaster or emergency.  Would include a statewide child care disaster plan for coordination of activities and collaboration between among the State agency with jurisdiction over human services, the agency with jurisdiction over State emergency planning, the State lead agency, the State agency with jurisdiction over licensing of child care providers, the local resource and referral organizations, the State resource and referral system, and the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.
Actions: Adopted 98-0
 
No.  2819
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: To clarify that nothing in this bill shall be construed or applied in any manner that would favor or promote the use of grants and contracts over the use of child care certificates; or that would disfavor or discourage the use of such certificates for the purchase of child care services, including those services provided by private or nonprofit entities, such as faith-based provider.
Actions:  See Senate Amendment no. 2837.
  
 
No.  2820
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary: Would require each parent, who applies for assistance for child care services for a child to include the name and valid identification number of the child on the application, which could include a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2821
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary:  Would prohibit states from reporting information to the federal government that contains personally identifiable information
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2822
Sponsors: Franken (D-MN)
Summary: Would set aside at least 2 percent of funds appropriated each fiscal year for Child Care and Development Block Grants for payments to American Indian tribes and tribal organizations.
Actions: Adopted 93-6
 
No.  2824
Sponsors: Bennett (D-CO)
Summary: Would require states that combine funding for child care block grants with other federal early childhood education programs — including Head Start and programs assisting low-income children, those that are homeless or those with disabilities — to describe how it will they will use the combined funding.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2837
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: See Senate Amendment no. 2819
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 

Tomorrow’s Floor Schedule and Timing

The Senate will reconvene Thursday morning at 9:30am and continue voting on amendments.  Although Senate Majority Leader Reid mentioned that the vote may not occur until next week, Senators Burr and Mikulski have strongly stated that they expect the vote to happen Thursday around 2:00pm Eastern.  We will keep you updated with all of the relevant information as it comes available.

To keep up with the action as it happens, you can watch the C-SPAN feed here or follow our twitter feed at @usachildcare.

It’s your last chance to let your Senators know that they need to support S.1086.

Take Action Now!

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Moves Onward

Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 out of Committee. A lot has changed in the past two decades and it’s been 17 years since the last reauthorization. This legislation places emphasis on promoting policies that will contribute to the safety and healthy development of millions of children who benefit from the federal child care program. The bill will now go to the full SenateHelpSenate for consideration.

Here’s what a few of the Senators said about the bill:

“As a mom and former preschool teacher, I know how import high-quality child care options are for parents, and this bill works to ensure the best possible care  “I am especially glad this bill includes new provisions to help more homeless families access child care. I’m also pleased that this legislation authorizes a national toll-free hotline and website for families seeking safe, affordable, quality child care in their community.” – Sen. Patty Murray from WA

“This legislation meets the compelling needs of children.” – Sen. Barbara Mikulski from MD

“Access to quality child care can make all the difference in a child’s early years, and this program has helped nearly 30,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the type of care that’s best for their family,” – Sen. Lamar Alexander from TN

 “To quote a periodical I read about the bill, ‘This is an honest to goodness bipartisan bill’” – Sen. Richard Burr from NC

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 will:

  • Raise the health and safety of child care settings.
  • Require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check.
  • Require child care programs to be inspected at least once every year to ensure they are safe and appropriate settings for children.
  • Improve program quality, while simultaneously ensuring federal funds support low-income and at-risk children and families.
  • Promote continuity of care to minimize disruption in children’s development.

More about the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013, can be found here.

It’s Time to Fix Child Care – Reauthorization Bill Introduced in Senate

Last week, Senator Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Burr (R-NC), Senator Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary federal grant program that provides child care assistance for families and funds child care quality initiative.  Child Care Aware® of America announced its support for the “Child Care Development and Block Grant Act of 2013” introduced today, which would reauthorize the program for the first time in over 17 years.

mikluskiCCDBG is administered to states in formula block grants. States use the grants to subsidize child care for working families earning low incomes. Most of this assistance is administered through vouchers or certificates, which can be used by parents for the provider or program of their choice. In addition, the law requires no less than 4 percent of CCDBG funding in each state to be used for activities to improve the overall quality of child care for all children within a community (for example, Child Care Resource & Referral services, training for child care providers, infant and toddler specialists, quality rating systems, etc.).

Over 20 years ago, Department of Defense (DoD) child care was not accountable, quality was poor, and the safety of children was compromised. Congress passed the Military Child Care Act in 1989 to ensure that funds would be spent in an accountable manner, that care would be of minimum quality, and that child care would be provided in an affordable manner for families. Child Care Aware® of America calls on Congress to use the lessons of the military to reauthorize and strengthen CCDBG so that civilian families have access to affordable, quality child care in all communities. Congress should also ensure that funding is sufficient so that eligible children are able to receive assistance.

Under S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2013 states would be required to:

  • Conduct comprehensive background checks (state and federal fingerprint checks, sex offender registry check, and check of the child abuse and registry for all licensed, regulated, or registered providers that receive CCDBG funds.
  • Inspect programs at least once before licensing, and at least one unannounced inspection annually.  Reports of the inspections must also be posted electronically.
  • Include a set of workforce and competency standards for providers, developed in consultation with the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care, using evidence-based training frameworks, incorporating states early learning and development guidelines, developmentally appropriate practices for different age groups, English learners, and children with disabilities.
  • Training at a minimum would cover:
  • Child Abuse Recognition and Prevention
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices
  • Early mathematics and early language and literacy development to support development in young children
  • Behavior management strategies
  • Supporting children with disabilities
  • Specialized care for infants and toddlers
  • Raise the eligibility period to 12-months, helping to ensure continuity of care for children and families.

This reauthorization bill is a huge step to move the nation forward ensuring children are safe and receiving the best early learning experiences while in child care. Children’s early years are proven to be the most impactful time to create strong learners. This bill sets the standard all families expect for their children.

CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years. This bill includes a great deal of measures to improve the quality of child care and ensure that all children in child care settings are safe.  It is time to protect children in child care and promote their healthy development.

Click here to contact your Senator and urge them to cosponsor S. 1086 today!

Learning from the Military Child Care System

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and a time to celebrate and remember those who died in service to our country – over a million men and women who have died since the Civil War protecting our people and democratic values – not “democratic” as in political party, but the big “D” – Democracy – a government in which power is vested in the people – a representative democracy with free elections to affect nationwide policies.

We have so much to learn from the military and how they take care of their families. Just one example, out of many, can be seen in the system of child care for children in military families compared to the system of child care for children in non-military families.

Last month, Child Care Aware® of America released “We Can Do Better: 2013 Update,” the 7th in a series of licensing reports scoring and ranking the states based on state child care center licensing policies and oversight.  According to the report, states averaged a score of 92 out of 150, a grade of 61 percent – very close to a failing grade. The Department of Defense (DoD) child care system was scored and ranked as well, since it is a system analogous to a state system serving many children throughout the country. The DoD child care system topped the list, outscoring all the state systems, with a strong framework based on safety and child development. How did the remainder of the states fare? The top 10 states earned a “C”, another 21 earned a “D,” and the remaining 20 states failed.

A U.S. Senate Committee hearing in 2011 compared the Military Child Care Act (MCCA), which governs the child care policies set by DOD with the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – however, individual state policies vary greatly.  Both acts have parental choice in child care settings as a centerpiece. Both acts were passed by Congress to respond to an increase in working women and a greater need to make child care more affordable for working families. But, that is about all the two laws have in common.

The Department of Defense has developed a system of quality child care. Nearly 100 percent of child care centers overseen by the military are nationally accredited compared to less than 8 percent of child care centers in civilian communities.  The military child care system has minimum protections for children, parents can choose from an array of settings that all meet these minimum protections, and there is accountability for how DoD child care funds are spent.

In contrast, CCDBG has led to a patchwork array of child care settings under different laws in every state. There is no system. There are no minimum protections for children. Parents can choose licensed or unlicensed care. There is little accountability for how public dollars are spent.

The MCCA requires a comprehensive background check (fingerprints against criminal records) for child care providers. In contrast, CCDBG does not require a background check. Do background checks matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Elly Lafkin, whose baby died in a child care program a year ago. A police investigation revealed a history of criminal offenses, which the provider had committed under various aliases, but Elly and her husband didn’t know because Virginia doesn’t require a fingerprint check so parents aren’t aware of offenses an individual with various aliases has committed.

The MCCA requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a uniform training program for child care providers. The act requires, at a minimum, that training shall cover:

  • Early childhood development
  • Activities and disciplinary techniques appropriate to children of different ages
  • Child abuse prevention and detection
  • CPR and other emergency medical procedures

As a result, DoD policy establishes a minimum requirement of 40 hours of initial training either before a provider cares for children or early on once hired. Also, DoD requires 24 hours of annual training as follow-up and to reinforce initial learning.

In contrast, CCDBG has no minimum training requirement. State requirements vary greatly.  For child care centers,

  • Only 21 states require staff training in child development.
  • Only 34 states have safe sleep requirements for infants.
  • Only 9 states require all staff to learn CPR.
  • Only 15 states meet each of the 10 health and safety policies recommended by pediatric experts.

Think a requirement for provider training in safe sleep doesn’t matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Nathan Salomonis, whose baby died in a licensed child care center in California where there is no safe sleep requirement to protect infants.

The MCCA requires regular unannounced inspections of child care programs. In contrast, CCDBG has no inspection requirement.  Nine states conduct inspections of child care centers less often than once a year.  About half the states conduct inspections of family child care homes less frequently than once per year.

Think inspections don’t matter? Read the story of Child Care Aware® of America parent leader, Vicky Dougherty, whose toddler son died in a defective crib in a child care program where potentially an inspection may have noted the problem and save her son’s life. But, in Pennsylvania, family child care homes are inspected only once every six years.

There are quality child care programs throughout the country. But, licensing laws vary greatly by state and CCDBG – the federal framework for state laws, contains no requirements for background checks or training for providers and no requirement for regular inspections.

CCDBG has not been reauthorized in 17 years.  Earlier this month, HHS Secretary Sebelius announced new proposed rules for child care to better promote the safety and healthy development of children through existing regulatory authority.  If you think it’s time to provide minimum protections for children in child care, comment today on the regulations.gov  web page.  If you think it’s time for Congress to reauthorize CCDBG and better protect children in child care and promote quality child care programs, let your Members of Congress know by clicking here.

It is great news that our Democracy created child care systems for military and non-military children. But, now it’s time to fix the system for non-military children.  A Democratic society can and should do better for our families.

New HHS Rules Promoting Children’s Health & Safety in Child Care

This past week, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, held a press conference at an early learning center in Washington, D.C.  to announce new rules to promote the health and safety of children in child care.  She said that in the absence of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the Administration is proposing to revise current regulations to better promote the safety and healthy development of children.

HHS Press Conference May 16, 2013

HHS Press Conference May 16, 2013

In addition to the Secretary, a child care center provider and an individual licensed to operate a child care program out of her home spoke about the need for quality child care. They talked about the importance of high quality care for children to both be safe and in a setting that leads to school readiness.  For millions of children, child care is their early learning program.

One of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders from Virginia, Elly Lafkin, spoke at the press conference about the death of her baby in a child care program. She told everyone how she and her husband had limited access to child care because they live in a rural area. She said this was their first baby and they were doubly anxious and cautious. A background check was conducted but it was a name check NOT a check using a fingerprint match against state and federal records. Unfortunately, the name check searched for only that particular name and it was only after the death of her baby when a police investigation was conducted that she and her husband learned of multiple aliases her provider had and the list of offenses for which her provider was convicted. She looked right at the audience and told them – if she knew that the provider had those offenses, she never would have selected her among other providers to care for her baby.  For more information about state requirements on background checks, click here to see the latest information and state tables from our research.

The proposed HHS regulations include minimum training requirements like safe sleep practices and first aid, practices to prevent shaken baby syndrome and emergency evacuation or shelter-in-place planning.  The Secretary called them common sense requirements. She talked about the importance of continuity of care.  She is concerned that frequent recertification requirements means in many states that parents are losing access to care, not because they earned more money, but because they somehow did not comply with the paperwork.  Another key component of the proposed new rules is for states to ensure that parents have more information about the quality of care so that they can be informed consumers.  The Secretary said inspection reports should be posted on the Internet and parents should receive information about child care programs through the use of quality indicators that can be easily understood by the public.  This only makes sense. Parents really can’t make informed choices if they don’t have information.

Congress has not reauthorized CCDBG in 17 years.  It makes sense for HHS to review current regulatory authority to better protect children.  The proposed regulations are posted on the Internet and HHS is inviting public comment over the next 75 days.  There are several areas in the regulations that ask for specific comments with regard to aspects of quality care such as scope and hours of training, frequency of inspections, and an appropriate time-frame during which to phase-in the new requirements.

Child Care Aware® of America will be working in the weeks ahead to promote the best quality care possible. We’ll be holding webinars and preparing summaries of various aspects of the proposed regulations. The comment period of 75 days is a long time, but it will go by fast. HHS needs to hear from us about what we believe will promote the health and safety of children in child care.

A Child Care License Should Mean Children are Safe

This week, the New Republic ran an article, “The Hell of American Day Care: An Investigation into the barely regulated, unsafe business of looking after our children.”  The article reviewed the condition of child care in America today and highlighted the Texas child care program where a fire killed four of seven young children being cared for by Jessica Tata in February 2011.

In many communities throughout America, child care is hard to find, harder to afford, and too often – of questionable quality.  Quality child care matters to ensure that children are both safe and in a setting to promote their healthy development.   Underlying the New America article is the dismal state of child care policies throughout America.

Child Care Centers

Child Care Aware® of America released its 7th child care licensing report last week, “We Can Do Better: 2013 Update,” which scored and ranked the states on state child care center licensing policies and oversight.  No state earned an “A” and only the Department of Defense (DoD) earned a “B.”  The remaining top 10 states (New York, Washington, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and Tennessee) earned a “C.”  Twenty-one states earned a “D” and the remaining 20 states earned a score of 60 or less, a failing grade.

Key Findings from the report:

  • Only 13 states require a comprehensive background check for child care center staff (a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check against the child abuse registry and a check against the sex offender registry).
  • State training requirements vary greatly. The reality is that most state training requirements are minimal. States sometimes specify training topics, but many do not mention the number of hours needed to complete this training. There is no assurance that topics are covered in a comprehensive or systemic way or whether an array of required topics becomes a checklist only – with little likelihood of strengthening the knowledge and behavior of child care providers.
  • Only 16 states address each of 10 basic health requirements and 10 basic safety requirements recommended by pediatric experts. (For example, only 9 states and DoD require initial training in CPR for all staff).
  • Even the strongest program requirements are undercut by ineffective monitoring. Nine states (Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont) do not require inspections at least once per year.

Family Child Care Homes

Last year, Child Care Aware® of America released its 6th child care licensing report, “Leaving Children to Chance: 2012 Update,” which scored and ranked the states on state family child care home policies and oversight.   Of the top 10 scoring states, no state earned an “A.”  Only one state (Oklahoma) earned a “B.”  Three states (Washington, Kansas and Delaware) and DoD earned a “C,” four states (Maryland, Alabama, the District of Columbia and Colorado) earned a “D” and the 10th state – Massachusetts, with a score of 86 out of 150, at 57 percent, earned an “F” (as did all remaining states).

Sixteen states scored zero. Eight scored zero because they do not inspect family child care homes before licensing or regulating them  (Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia and Texas).  Another eight states scored zero because they either allow more than six children in the home before requiring a license or do not license small family child care homes (Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota and Virginia).  For example, South Dakota allows 12 children to be in a home before requiring a licensing (the 13th child triggers the state licensing requirement).

Key Findings from the report:

  • Only 11 states require a comprehensive background check for individuals who wish to operate a child care business out of their home.
  • State training requirements are minimal with five states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas) not requiring any hours of training before operating  a home child care.
  • Only 15 states address each of 10 basic health requirements and 10 basic safety requirements recommended by pediatric experts.
  • Even the strongest program requirements are undercut by ineffective monitoring. About half the states do not require at least one inspection per year.

What Can Be Done?

The Child Care and Development Block Grant, the federal law that allocates funds to states for child care and sets parameters for state child care laws, has not been reauthorized in 17 years (since 1996).  The law does not require background checks. The law does not require training for child care providers. The law does not require inspections.  That’s just wrong. It’s time to change the law.

Nearly 11 million children under age five are in some type of child care setting every week. First, children should be safe in child care.  Second, child care settings should promote their healthy development.

The President has proposed a comprehensive early learning strategy to promote safe, quality settings to foster healthy child development for young children from birth through preschool-age.  For many of the 11 million young children in child care every week, child care is their early learning setting.  As Congress considers an early learning vision for America, fixing child care should be the cornerstone.

Parents need child care in order to work and a strong economy depends on working parents.  At the same time, parents cannot be expected to monitor child care settings while they are at work.  Any early learning plan needs to build out by fixing child care so that all children are in quality settings, which begins with safety.  Parents want it; children need it.  It’s time to fix child care.

Join us by calling on Congress to fix child care as part of any early learning plan to be considered.

Virginia County Looks to Weaken Child Care!

Last week a front page story in the Washington Post shared the tragic death of 3-month-old Camden Lafkin in a Virginia child care program.  The child care provider and Camden’s cause of death are under investigation.  What is known is that the program was unlicensed.  (Virginia does not require an individual to obtain a child care license unless the provider cares for six or more children in the home – seven or more if the individual is caring for her own children since they are exempt from the official count of children in the home).

Arlington County in Virginia has stronger protections for children in child care than the state requires.  Instead of leaving children to chance until 6 or more children are in the home, Arlington County requires all providers who care for 4 or more children to obtain a child care license.  Individuals who wish to care for one to three children in their home must follow county child care standards for licensed programs (a local permitting requirement).  These smaller homes must follow the same rules. If they are found out of compliance, they have 10 days to address any violations or they are assessed penalties and required to close.

This means that in Arlington County, all family child care home providers are subject to background checks, minimum health and safety protections for children, and inspections.

For child care centers, Arlington County requires all centers to be licensed (i.e., no exemptions for centers affiliated with religious organizations—the setting of the children is paramount, not the sponsor of the center).  Arlington County has more professional requirements for child care center directors compared to state requirements. The county also requires more minimum education for child care center teachers than the state requires.  Further promoting quality child care, Arlington County requires a lower child:staff ratio to promote safety and more effective interaction between staff and children compared to the state and limits the size of each group within each classroom. The state of Virginia has no group size restrictions. Click here for a side by side comparison of Arlington County requirements versus the state of Virginia.

For 40 years, Arlington County has been looking out for the safety of children. This week, we learned the county board is recommending the closure of the Arlington County Office of Child Care and repeal of the Arlington County child care regulations, which would save $250,000.  The effect of this would be for child care in Arlington County to revert back to state standards.

Child Care Aware® of America’s state licensing reports grade the state of Virginia as a “D” with regard to child care centers and an “F” with regard to family child care homes.  Newspaper stories have relayed the safety issues leading to child tragedies across the state.

  • Baby Dylan Cummings died in a license-exempt program in Norfolk.
  • Baby Camden Lafkin died in a child care program in rural Shanandoah.
  • Baby Teagan Sample died in a child care program in Bristow.
  • A provider in Manassas was charged with endangering children in an unlicensed program where six infants were cared for by one provider without a license.
  • Several newspaper stories in the past year have detailed sexual abuses against children by other adults living in the home of child care providers.

It is time for state policymakers to protect children in child care.  Overall, child care licensing in Virginia needs to have stronger protections for children.  It is disappointing and troubling that Arlington County would abandon its strong stance for child protection and say that the state law is enough.  The state law is weak at best.  No doubt, difficult decisions need to be made with regard to the county budget. But, shouldn’t the safety of children be a top priority?  What is a child’s life worth?  Leaving children to chance is not worth the gamble. State and county policy should do better for families.

Take Action Today and let the Arlington County Board know child care safety is important!

Virginia Needs an Overhaul of State Child Care Laws

A front page Washington Post story on Sunday, March 10, “After a baby’s death, a Virginia mother fights for stronger child care standards,” shared the tragic story of 3-month-old Camden Lafkin’s death in a Virginia child care program.  The child care provider and Camden’s cause of death are under investigation.  What is known is that the program was unlicensed.  (Virginia does not require an individual to obtain a child care license unless the provider cares for six or more children in the home – seven or more if the individual is caring for her own children since they are exempt from the official count of children in the home).

Virginia is one of eight states that allow such a large number of unrelated children to be cared for without a license.  No license means:

  • No background check to screen out those with a history of violent criminal offenses
  • No minimum training requirements
  • No minimum health and safety policies
  • No inspections

In the case of baby Camden, her parents looked for child care but their options for licensed care were limited in their rural community.  They received a recommendation from friends. They interviewed the provider and had a background check run.  But, commercial checks are only as good as the records they can access.  Without a fingerprint check against state and federal records, individuals can use an alias to circumvent the system.  Unfortunately, the Lafkins found out the truth behind background checks the hard way. It turns out that baby Camden’s provider had a history of offenses under different aliases and without a fingerprint check, the aliases were unknown to the Camerons.

“We trusted this lady with our child,” said Elly Lafkin, Camden’s mother.  “We didn’t realize that sending your child to an unlicensed, unregistered provider meant throwing her to the wolves.”

The same Washington Post newspaper also shared a story, “In Virginia, church run day care centers are exempt from licensing standards”  about the death of baby Dylan Cummings in Little Eagles Day Care in Norfolk, a center affiliated with Bethel Temple Church of Deliverance, one of over 1,000 license-exempt child care centers in Virginia.

Because Little Eagles was exempt from licensing standards, the providers did not have to comply with state licensing requirements for staff training, staff:child ratios, basic health and safety requirements, or infant safe sleeping practices. On the day that baby Dylan died, 10 infants were packed into a hot, unventilated 12 by 12 foot room that fire marshalls had labeled a utility closet.  The providers did not know about the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics for infants to be placed on their backs to sleep and baby Dylan was placed on his tummy on two foam pads with an ill-fitting sheet where he suffocated.

A few months ago, Judge Charles Poston wrote in a state court decision, “While the court is certainly sympathetic…  the remedy for this situation lies in the sound discretion of the General Assembly, not with the judiciary.”

In the Virginian Pilot, an article that also ran on Sunday, “Day Care Centers Get Money Despite Losing Licenses,” described how $184,000 in taxpayer dollars had been paid to child care centers in Hampton Roads over the past year despite the fact that the licenses for these centers had been revoked. The money paid for the care of low income children.  Because the centers were in the appeals process of license revocation, the state continued to pay them to care for children.

One would think that taxpayer dollars could only be used in programs in good standing.  However, there is no “good standing” requirement in federal or state law and therefore it is left to the state’s discretion as to how they will steward taxpayer dollars.

Background checks and minimum training for child care providers, basic health and safety protections for children in child care, accountable stewardship of taxpayer dollars when paying the child care costs for low income children – it is time for the Virginia State Legislature to review the state’s child care policies to ensure that children are safe in child care.   It’s time for Congress to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds for child care to the states and sets the framework for state child care laws.  Virginia needs to better protect children.  The federal law should require it.