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

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.