Kansas ranked slightly higher than the average, but still earned a ‘D’ grade in a Child Care Aware of America report, “We Can Do Better: 2013 Update.”
The report scores and ranks state laws governing child care centers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 11 requirements and four oversight benchmarks.
The average score was 92 out of 150 points – the equivalent of 61 percent or a “D.” Kansas scored 93 points.
There were no “A”s. The top 10 states – New York, Washington, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and Tennessee, scored a “C.” Another 21 states, including Kansas earned a “D” and the remaining 20 states scored a 60 or below, a failing grade.
“Parents want their children to be safe in child care. They want their children to be learning and they don’t want to worry about their children while they are at work,” Leadell Ediger, executive director of Child Care Aware of Kansas, said. “However, the report today shows that most state licensing requirements are weak and oversight is weaker. Any grade equating to a “D” or below is unsatisfactory performance in any school.”
State licensing policies vary widely. Only 13 states require comprehensive background checks. Ten states do not conduct monitoring visits or inspections at least once per year. Only four states post inspection reports online.
“In our state, the level of education required of child care providers needs to be improved,” Ediger said. “We know from the research, and we know from our on-the-ground work with families and providers that we can strengthen the quality of care in our state.”
There are few training requirements for staff hired to work in child care centers. Seventeen states do not require a high school diploma for an individual to be a lead teacher in a child care center classroom. Another 14 states require only a high school diploma.
“The key to quality child care is a strong child care workforce, but, in our state, only a high school diploma or GED is required,” Ediger said. “ It’s time for state policymakers to understand the connection between quality programs and the training of those individuals working in child care programs.”
The report found:
• Only 16 states address each of 10 basic health requirements and 10 basic safety requirements recommended by pediatric experts.
• Only 21 states require training in child development.
• Only 9 states require initial training in CPR for all staff
• Only 21 states call for a head count when children leave child care vans.
• Five states do not check the child abuse registry before allowing an individual to work in a center.
• Five states do not have policies for infants with regard to safe sleep practices.
“Quality programs make a real difference for children,” Ediger explained.  “However, it’s hard to have a quality program with little training for staff and infrequent oversight.  The result is what we have today: a large gap between what parents logically assume and the reality of state policies.”
About $10 billion in federal funds is spent on child care every year. To ensure that children are in settings that are safe and promote their healthy development, Child Care Aware® of America recommends that Congress reauthorize and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to:
• Require background checks based on fingerprints and a check of the child abuse registry and sex offender registry for all child care providers paid to care for unrelated children.
• Require states to establish minimum health and safety requirements and enforce them through regular unannounced inspections of all licensed child care programs.
• Require states to post inspection findings on the internet so that parents can make informed choices.
• Require all child care workers to have at least 40 hours of initial training (including CPR, first-aid and other basic health and safety training in addition to child development) and complete 24 hours of annual training.
• Authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold funding from states that do not require minimum protections for children and that do not conduct regular unannounced inspections of child care settings.
• Require emergency plans so that children are safe during times of natural disaster or crises.
• Increase the quality set-aside under CCDBG to 12 percent, gradually increasing to 25 percent, on par with Head Start.