California makes progress ensuring basic health, safety of children in licensed child care

Guest blog from Kim Johnson, Public Policy Director, California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

Editor’s Note: Child Care Aware® of America participated in a story with a California investigative reporting team writing about families’ access to licensing and inspection information on child care in their state. The story, which also featured an interview with Kim Johnson, public policy director at the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network prompted local lawmakers to move forward getting inspection records online and easily accessible for families. Kim writes here as a guest blogger about the history and progress of protecting children in child care in California and why this might be the year the system gets a much needed technology fix.

California’s licensing program, the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) performs the essential function of protecting the basic health and safety of children in licensed centers and family child care home settings in California. Budget cuts and compliance procedures have resulted in a program that now provides inadequate oversight and monitoring of these facilities – as few as one site visit over five years.

Prior to 2003, licensed child care centers were required to receive a site visit at least once a year and family child care homes three times a year under CCLD. In reality site visits may occur as few as once in five years from the licensing program, hardly enough to ensure minimum safety in an industry with high staff turnover.

The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network (the Network) has led efforts that would require more frequent inspections by sponsoring Assembly Bill 419 (Mitchell): Care facilities, in the 2011-12 legislative session and in the current year with Assembly Bill 1454 (Calderon): Care facilities: regulatory visits.

Research demonstrates that licensed programs are more likely to be in compliance with required regulations if inspections occur more frequently. In addition, inspections are associated with lower rates of accidents requiring medical attention.

The Network strongly encourages the allocation of new resources to expand states’ capacity to ensure the basic health and safety of children in licensed child care settings by strengthening the licensing infrastructure.

The Governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year provides additional funding to the Licensing Division to strengthen their accountability and oversight and to make efficiencies. The discussion about this proposal in Budget Committees in both the Assembly and Senate, demonstrate that the Legislature is also supportive of providing new resources to the Licensing Division.

Paired with recent television and print media attention that highlights California’s need for improvement, citing research such as, Child Care Aware® of America’s 2013, “We Can Do Better Report,” may just put this issue over the tipping point to make positive change.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to learn more about AB 1454 and support this effort by signing the Network’s petition located here: http://www.rrnetwork.org/support_ab_1454.

Recent Media:
NBC Bay Area Coverage
California Lags Behind in Child Care Oversight
Completely Outdated Inspection System Needs Fix

Parents Struggle to Access Child Care Records
California’s Lack of Online Child Care Records Leaves Parents in the Dark

Kim Johnson serves as the Public Policy Manager of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network where she guides the Network and its member agencies in budget and legislative analysis, public policy education and advocacy efforts. Kim also leads the Network’s Public Policy Committee. She is a mother of three.

More in the States: Virginia progress on background checks for child care providers

Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns

Guest Blog by Camille Smith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you have not already had a child in your care with a developmental delay or disability, chances are, you will. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in 6 children has a developmental disability. Children with developmental problems are at increased risk for poor outcomes in many areas important to health, well-being and success in life.

Early treatment and services can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills, and earlier identification will maximize children’s opportunities to benefit from services. Most children with developmental delays are not identified early enough for them to benefit from early intervention services. You can help change that.

You spend the day caring for and teaching children and are instrumental in determining many of the experiences they have. You celebrate milestones children reach and you are concerned when they do not reach those very important milestones. You are a trusted partner and valuable resource to families. They look to you for information on how their child is developing, because you often have good observations about their child’s strengths and needs.

You can play an important role in the early identification of developmental delay by tracking the development of each child in your care, sharing materials and resources with families so that they too can monitor their child, and talking with families about their child’s development. Monitoring each child’s development is easy with the right tools and resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. program has free materials to help you monitor a child’s development, have  important conversations with families about their child’s development, and take early action on developmental concerns.

Learn the Signs. Act Early.” offers:

  • Developmental milestone checklists
  • Tips for helping children grow and learn
  • Guidance on how to take early action on developmental concerns, and
  • COMING SOON: online training for early care and education providers for FREE CE credit!

“Learn the Signs. Act Early.” materials are research based, parent-friendly, and even customizable! Best of all they are free and easy to download from your computer.

Don’t Wait. Tracking milestones and acting early on developmental concerns can make a big difference!!

For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/ActEarly or email ActEarly@cdc.gov.

Please visit the Child Care Aware® of America Symposium page for details about Camille’s Symposium session.

5 reasons the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant matters

ccdbg reauthorize2The Senate will consider the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) as early as next week. As you know, this federal law outlines how child care funding and quality initiatives are funded in the states –yet it has not been reauthorized in over 17 years, making the Senate debate next week one of the most critical conversations about children in child care in recent times.

This piece of legislation, S. 1086, is something for which Child Care Aware® of America has long fought and we’re thrilled and hopeful that the bill has come this far.  There are many steps to take still, but if passed, this legislation would help ensure working families have access to safe, affordable child care in ways that do not exist today.

Children and families in America are counting on you and I to rally behind every step the CCDBG reauthorization takes towards becoming reality. That’s why we are urging everyone to contact their Senators and ask them to support S.1086 right away.

Need more? Here are five reasons the reauthorization of CCDBG matters:

  1. Comprehensive background checks. Did you know under the current law, many states do not require child care providers to have comprehensive background checks to work in child care? This means that it’s possible for anyone to receive child care funds and work with children… even sex offenders. This CCDBG reauthorization requires providers undergo a comprehensive background check, which include state and federal fingerprint checks, sex offender registry check and a child abuse and registry check. It’s a common sense requirement to keep children safe.
  2. Increased quality funds to states. The current CCDBG law requires that states use 4 percent of funding from CCDBG for quality dollars. These quality dollars help Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies support quality initiatives like training and parent education. This number of quality dollars increases dramatically with S.1086 requiring that states set aside no less than 6 percent of funds in 2014, 8 percent of funds in 2016, and 10 percent of funds by 2018 to improve the quality of child care.
  3. Increased awareness for families. This CCDBG reauthorization requires states to electronically post the results of monitoring and inspection reports, including substantiated complaints of child care programs. Additionally, states would be required to collect and make public the number of deaths, serious injuries, and instances of child abuse. Transparency is necessary to help parents choose the right child care setting for their family.
  4. Inspect child care programs before licensing. Many states do not require inspections prior to issuing child care licenses. Some states even allow self-certification prior to receiving a license. The CCDBG reauthorization, S.1086, requires states to inspect programs at least once before licensing and at least one unannounced inspection annually. These reports must also be posted electronically.
  5. Continuity of care. S.1086 ensures each child who receives assistance through CCDBG will continue to be eligible for child care assistance for no less than 12 months, as long as family income does not exceed 85 percent of state median income for a family of the same size. This is extremely important for our youngest learners because we know how crucial continuity of care is in a child’s early years. The ability to keep a child in a program consistently will help ensure the child receives appropriate developmental activities and prepares them to start kindergarten ready to learn.

This is a critical moment for the future of children in child care. You can send an email to your Senators through our Action Center here and to learn more about the bill, please visit our website here. Don’t delay. Your senators will need to know your position as they prepare to discuss the bill.

Thank you for your support for children in child care.

Congratulations to Let’s Move! for reaching four years

February marks the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move!, America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. As a Let’s Move! Child Care partner, Child Care Aware® of America joins in celebrating this milestone. We have worked with Let’s Move! Child Care on many projects over the past years.

Here are a few of our favorite moments:

Let’s Move! Child Care Physical Activity for Trainers

Farm to Preschool: Digging in to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

Taking Care of You With MyPlate

Focusing on the Whole Child
We’ll be talking about the health and education of the whole child at our second Health Aware event, as part of the 2014 Symposium. Join us on Friday, April 4 for Health Aware with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Save the Children, Child’s Environmental Health and Let’s Move! Child Care.

Learn more about how Child Care Aware® of America works with Let’s Move! here.

Raise Your Hand discussion continued at Symposium

Child Care Aware® of America hosted its first Raise Your Hand for Child Care virtual event. This event included a live reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and Twitter chat to conclude our Raise Your Hand for Child Care five-month webinar series, which was created to build awareness about federal and state policy opportunities to support child care.

18500129_ryh-social-media-ad-redditThe Raise Your Hand series united coalition partners and early childhood advocates nationwide and the virtual finale event gave the public the chance to ask questions about early childhood policy, the child care subsidy system, the Preschool for All movement, and more. To view the entire reddit event, click here. support child care. 

Not only did our virtual event help us engage parents and families around the country, but it also generated lots of questions that we’ll be addressing at our 2014 Symposium.  Many of 27 breakout sessions taking place at Symposium will talk about the new funding for Early Head Start – Child Care partnerships, research about families and best practices for training providers, and so much more we chatted about during the Raise Your Hand virtual event.

Get more at Symposium
The Child Care Aware® of America 2014 Symposium will take place April 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. This three-day event will focus on child care and early education policies and bills currently before Congress, as well as research, practice and innovation approaches for child care that are shaping how families access quality child care. To register for Symposium, please visit our website here and follow the conversation on Twitter using #RYH4ChildCare.

Sneak Preview
Be sure to check the Early Directions blog often. Over the next few weeks you’ll get a peek into some of the 2014 Symposium sessions through guest bloggers who will also present at Symposium.  We are proud to present sneak preview blogs from:

Join us in preparing for the 2014 Symposium where we’ll celebrate our field and keep the momentum forward as we do something BIG for children in child care.

2013: Setting the Stage for Young Children in 2014

For years Child Care Aware® of America has shared one message: affordable, high quality child care matters. It matters for children and it matters for families.

This year, the White House took notice, with President Obama making expanded opportunities for high quality child care and early learning not just a part of his policy agenda, but a central focus of that agenda so that “none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

This unparalleled attention to an issue that impacts the more than 11 million children in out of home care was met with welcomed hope and renewed inspiration.

Perhaps finally our pleas for focus and attention to quality and safety would be heeded.

Maybe all states that participate in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) would have to ensure minimum health and safety standards in their programs.

Perhaps training, which is currently required in only half of the states would be extended to all.

Maybe states would be expected to conduct routine inspections more frequently than every 5 or 6 years and background checks would be conducted on all who accept a fee for child care.

President Obama embraced this challenge early on, sharing his vision for a quality early learning system for all in his 2013 State of the Union address; promoting early learning as an economic development strategy and as essential to ensuring that children enter school ready to learn so we can prevent achievement gaps before they begin.

It didn’t end there. He backed it up with a promise to fund states who embraced quality. He proposed new regulations for CCDBG, a program which hadn’t been reauthorized in more than 17 years.

Later, in his budget, President Obama proposed a new $75 billion investment in a high quality, coordinated early learning program that would ensure all children would have access to preschool. The Obama administration leadership shed light on how few children have access to quality child care and that state laws vary greatly. They did so by focusing attention on five areas:

  • Improving the Quality of Child Care: Access to affordable, safe, quality child care is essential for all families: without it, many families are left with the untenable choice of leaving their children in substandard care, or risk losing their jobs. New comprehensive rules proposed by the Obama administration are pending and have been echoed in the first bi-partisan reauthorization proposal for CCDBG in more than 17 years. The proposed rule and CCDBG reauthorization set the stage for significant improvements in 2014 for the largest program funding child care services in the United States.
  • Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships: The President also announced plans to expand the supply of early learning for children from birth to age 3 by making a $1.4 billion investment in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. This means Early Head Start grantees would partner with child care providers who agree to meet high standards of quality.
  • Preschool for All: In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. As part of that effort, the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: In our youngest children.
  • Empowering Parents: We all know the important role that families play in promoting the healthy development of their children, yet not all families are equipped with the information and support they need to create positive environments for their children to develop and learn. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program created under the Affordable Care Act expands evidence-based home visiting programs in states to serve the most vulnerable children and families to better ensure that children are healthy and prepared for school and life. The President put forward a proposal to extend funding of this $1.5 billion program for another 10 years in the 2013 State of the Union address.
  • Raising the Bar for Early Learning through Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants: The Obama administration has invested in comprehensive improvements to state early learning systems through Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a new competition that challenges states to deliver better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful education and training for early educators. This program represents an unprecedented opportunity for states to focus on early learning and development systems in their states and build a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families to make sure that more children, especially those with high needs, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

We have much to be thankful for, and yet much more to do. Last year was a launch pad for action in 2014. Major legislation has been introduced and needs our sustained voices to gain momentum and convey the sense of urgency needed to propel it into law.

Child Care Aware® of America is not alone. We stand with hundreds of other committed organizations who share the same mission and goal. We stand with the parents and children whose stories tell us why we must demand action from decision makers.  Child Care Aware® of America has raised its hand and stands at the ready to make those decisions happen. Raise your hand. Stand with us in 2014.

Get more: Raise Your Hand webinar series on child care and early education in America.

Child Care Provider Reacts to Cost of Care Report

Child Care Aware® of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Care: 2013 Report received a huge reaction from the media – more than 250 references in the news, reaching an estimated 2 million readers and viewers.

In the report we noted child care is one of the lowest paying professional fields and one of the most labor-intensive. We asked a child care provider to share her perspective on the report.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the award-winning Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia. In this guest blog she shares how the field has changed over the years, and how her team works to balance a successful, high-quality child care program with an innovative approach.

~ Lynette

The Child Care Aware® of America publication, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report was a great prelude to the bi-partisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013, introduced last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY). The importance of early care and education is now being seen as what we, as providers, have known for decades. This age is a critical time of investment.

But while legislators continue to discuss why it is important for Americans to invest in early care and education on all levels, families continue to struggle to ensure their children remain in a high-quality program. The term child care suggests this is an institute for someone to watch children while parents work. While families do rely on child care to support working parents, the field has undergone great changes over the last few decades.

From child care to early education
Today, early care and education has improved the quality of learning for all children. With countless research findings how on a child’s brain develops, we now know that the influences children have in the first years of development are crucial to their success throughout their life. Because of this research, the field of early childhood education has increased quality requirements, added educational guidelines for teachers, and implemented early standards of learning that allow a child’s environment to be rich with positive interactions, and resources that enhance their learning experiences.

Preparing for kindergarten
Recognizing how essential it is to positively impact the brain activity while children are under age 5, educators now work to ensure that children are ready for the challenges that face them in kindergarten and beyond. Children who start kindergarten behind require additional services to catch up. If those services are not provided, children remain behind, and are subject to school failure.

The funding challenge
But public funding has yet to catch up with the quality changes. Many low-income families with young children can apply for federal assistance to help pay for child care. However, subsidy rates are at least 10 years behind the current market rates for child care services, and many  local social service departments have  long waiting lists.

If families do receive child care subsidies, many times, they are required to find quality care that will accept this subsidy rate. Many child care centers charge families, who are already struggling to afford care, the additional cost, over and above the subsidy rates. Right now, the subsidy leaves a balance that can range from $20 to $100 a week.

As the executive director of Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, we have made this struggle our mission.

Our solution
Working to ensure that all families have access to quality early childhood education, we work with private funders and foundations to make ends meet.

But all centers do not have this option.

They either provide the professional quality early learning environment that our children deserve, or provide substandard care, accepting the fees offered through public funding to support families.

Then there are families who don’t meet the income guidelines to receive a public subsidy, but still have difficulties meeting the costs associated with quality early care and education.

Tough choices
Sometimes, families opt to have one parent stay home because the loss of one income is more economical than the cost of child care. While this may seem a solution to the rising cost, as explained earlier, the research backing the importance of early childhood education shows that children enrolled in a quality program show greater outcomes than those children who have not experienced it at all.

Americans need to stop viewing early care and education as “just child care,” and commit to the financial investment in our future.

Kathy Banks, M.Ed., is the executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center in Virginia.

Harkin, Miller, Hanna propose Strong Start for America’s Children Act

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Today, Congress sent a clear message to the nation.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013 in the Senate and House, respectively. Flanked by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and actress Jennifer Garner, Harkin and Miller introduced the bill before a packed room of early education advocates including parents, educators, and members of the law enforcement, military, and business communities – and children!

“Families are trying to give their children the right start in life and are not given the opportunity. They deserve better”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

The legislation would follow much of  President Obama’s FY 2014 Budget proposal:

  • Creating a new program providing enhanced access to preschool for 4-year-olds
  • Expanding partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs, and
  • Provide guidance on the importance of home visiting

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. The Harkin-Miller-Hanna proposal would build on these existing state programs, while supporting infrastructure development in states without programs.

At the same time, the proposal ensures families have increased access to quality care, by including more funds for quality initiatives in child care settings and expanding partnerships with Early Head Start programs in their communities.

The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee passed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act in September. Now, along with the Harkin-Miller-Hanna proposal, we continue to see Congress is listening, and they know children and families deserve better.

Although there is still work to do, the Harkin-Miller-Hanna legislation is a vital step forward validating the importance of quality early learning experiences nationwide.

What is QRIS? Webinar series continues Thursday

As Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) have expanded across the country, states are focusing on the “I,” improving quality.

Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) are important players in the quality improvement landscape and have a large stake in the structure and functioning of QRIS.

Our “Raise Your Hand” webinar series continues on Thursday, with Gerrit Westervelt, Ph.D., Executive Director of the BUILD Initiative and its QRIS National Learning Network, leading an interactive discussion of the evolution of QRIS, the increasing attention to QI strategies, and how QRIS are shaping state early learning systems.

We invite you to join us for this important webinar, Raise Quality, part of our ongoing series that is designed to increase awareness about federal and state opportunities to support child care, connect participants with content experts, and promote meaningful action to get the job done.

Register here.

Parents and the high cost of child care: A Report

Cost of Care graphicChild care is unaffordable for many families. The costs leave children in questionable environments that can have long-term consequences for them and for our nation’s future.

We explore and analyze these costs in our annual report, released today, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report. The report lays out the cost of child care by state, region and age ranges and explores why child care is so expensive as well as recommendations to improve child care in the United States.

This is our seventh report on the cost of child care, and while the story has not changed, the need for change has. Here’s why:

Child care influences early development.
Breakthrough research tells us the early years are a unique period of development and that early experiences form the foundation for future success.

Child care is early education.
Children who start kindergarten behind too often stay behind. Among children who arrive at school without the skills needed for success, over 85 percent are still behind in 4th grade.

Child care is a national security imperative.
Fully 75 percent of 18-year-olds are not qualified to serve their country through military service. To address this national security issue, military leaders have identified the need for quality early care and education for all children as a top priority to ensure children get off to the right start.

Child care is an economic imperative.
Dr. James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and professor of economics at the University of Chicago concluded after decades of research on labor economics:

“The real question is how to use available funds wisely. The best evidence supports the policy prescription: Invest in the very young.”

We recognize this report asks difficult questions about child care. But ask them we must: How can quality child care be made affordable for all families? What can we do as a national community to invest in the 11 million children who may need child care programs? This report will help inform the important conversations ahead.

Visit www.usa.childcareaware.org/costofcare to view the full report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report.

We thank the Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies who provide data to build this report. Without their support, this publication would not be possible. Learn more about CCR&Rs.