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

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.

Virginia Progress on Background Checks for Child Care Providers

elly1

Elly and Cameron Lafkin preparing for their interview on Weekend Today, August 2013

Guest Blog by Sharon Veatch, Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of Virginia

At Symposium in 2013, I met Elly Lafkin, one of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders, whose baby, Camden, died in a child care program in Shenandoah, Virginia in 2012. It was heartbreaking to hear that during the police investigation of Camden’s death, the police processed the child care provider’s fingerprints and found that the woman had several aliases and a history of criminal offenses. When Elly said that she and her husband would have made a different choice had they only known about the provider’s past, I knew I would make changing the law in Virginia a top priority for the 2013 session.

There were many things to do and we needed to do them quickly. We drafted background check legislation and materials. We met with Voices for Virginia’s Children to request that the background check bill be included in their children’s agenda. We met with stakeholders such as the Department of Social Services, the State Police, the Virginia Child Care Center Association (VCCA), the Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations (VAFCCA), and the VA Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) and the religious community. With each meeting we had, there were concerns raised that we sought to address.

After meeting with several state legislators, we identified sponsors to introduce the bills in the House and Senate. In January, we succeeded in getting bills introduced to require fingerprint background checks for child care providers: HB 412, with Co-Patrons of Delegate Richard Anderson, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Delegate Chris Peace, and SB 639 with by Senator Emmett Hanger. A fiscal impact concern started to derail the process so we worked out a compromise with the sponsors. The compromise was to require a task force to convene stakeholders (the Department of Social Services, the state police, the child care provider community, parents, etc.) and to recommend ways to implement a fingerprint check system at the lowest possible cost in a practical and effective manner. The task force recommendations would be due on November 1, 2014 with enough time to prepare the recommendations in bill form for the 2015 session.

We testified at budget hearings, committee hearings, and worked with VA legislators and staff. Elly Lafkin testified before the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee to make the case about why parents believe background checks are important. We met with every member of the House HWI Committee and the Senate Rules Committee (the committees where the bills had been referred). In the end, the bill passed the House and the Senate. Our child care team made it happen. Elly is looking forward to standing at the Governor’s side as he signs Cami’s bill into law. Next year we’ll be back with a draft bill to implement the task force’s recommendations.

Get More:
Elly and Cameron Lafkin told their story on the Weekend Today Show, August 2013, with an interview from Child Care Aware® of America.

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.

Priced out of licensed child care?

“Many families are priced out of licensed child care services… the health and safety of those children are at risk.” –Lynette Fraga  CNN Money

Raising a child will cost families more than $240,000 before a child’s 18th birthday an August 2013 US Department of Agriculture report showed.

The second biggest expense in that $240,000? Child care and education – not including college.

o-INFOGRAPHIC-COST-OF-RAISING-CHILD-900Child care is one of the biggest costs to raising children
Between 1960 and 2012, child care and education expenses went from 2 percent of the cost to raise a child, to 18 percent. Child care and education takes up a bigger chunk of the pie than healthcare and food. Child care and education is the second biggest expense behind housing.

Families are forced to make tough choices as the cost of child care continues to rise and wages stay the same or go down. But there is an even bigger unknown than child care costs. What is the quality of the child care program?

Quality child care too expensive for some
We know many parents turn to unlicensed child care settings because licensed care can be more expensive. Unlicensed programs are not required to meet basic state health and safety standards. Their providers are not required to complete a comprehensive background check and their buildings are not required to be regularly inspected. That leaves children to chance.

Quality requires Accountability
In the United States, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in child care each week and although child care costs are high, most states have inadequate requirements for the quality of care. Currently, the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides funds to states to help make child care more affordable for families, does not require that funds be used to pay for licensed care.

Child Care Aware® of America is pushing for the passage of the CCDBG reauthorization, Senate Bill 1086, that would raise the standards for quality child care in this nation.

The costs to raise a child are high. But the risk of unlicensed child care is even higher.

Three things you can do now:
• Stay tuned for our 2013 Cost of Care Report and spread the word about the need for quality child care.
Send a message to your congressional member about CCDBG
Sign up for weekly updates on all things child care

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America

Today Show sheds light on child care

Elly and Cameron Lafkin’s daughter, Camden, died while in child care in 2012. Camden was 13 weeks old. The Today Show told the Lafkin’s story on Saturday, and I was honored to provide comment on the policy factors that contribute to tragedies like what happened to the Lafkins.

As I said in the Today Show segment, quality child care is hard to find because states have no consistent standards for licensing, comprehensive background checks and training requirements for people who are caring for our nations children.

Watch the interview here.

Meanwhile, here are three steps you can take to help.

  • Support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Proposed Rule on child care. Today is the last day to add a public comment.
  • Tell Congress to renew the Child Care Development Block Grant reauthorization that would require comprehensive background checks for child care providers.
  • Share the Lafkin’s story. Spread the word so we can make change for all children in child care.

Lynette is the executive director of  Child Care Aware® of America.

Oklahoma: Supporting the Children

rogers

Like so many of you,  I grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood.  Fred Rogers was a calming presence for an entire generation of children, but he also had someone to help navigate difficult times when he was a child. His mother once told him, when disaster strikes, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

We mourn those killed and the community traumatized by the tornadoes in Oklahoma. And we also think of the teachers, the helpers, the adults to whom children look when scary moments like tornadoes or violence happens around them. These amazing adults are heroes to children in child care settings and schools throughout the community. They did the very thing we need them to do – provide a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for children.

The children and families in Oklahoma and other affected areas will need support to deal with this trauma and the rebuilding of their neighborhoods. All of us, from many disciplines, must, and already have, come together to provide the best supportive care for the children directly affected, and those children who may have witnessed the disaster in the media. At Child Care Aware ® of America, we are committed to working with Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and other national and local partners to support rebuilding and offer disaster resources, talking points and guidance for adults working and living with children.

We see the best during our most difficult moments – and this was true in Oklahoma. We praise those teachers and caregivers who protected their children, and we stand ready to offer support, wherever it is needed.

Here are a few resources to get you started. Follow us as we work together for children across our nation.

Crisis and Disaster Resources

Free Download – What’s the Plan? Ask Your Child Care Provider Before a Disaster

Mister Rogers Neighborhood: Helping Children Deal with Scary News

 Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware ® of America