January 15, 2014

Child Care Licensing Oversight Lacks Consistency, Report Finds

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A consultants’ review of Connecticut’s child care licensing system recommends that the state boost training for providers and eliminate inconsistencies in the way inspectors interpret and apply regulations.

The report by the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA), a professional organization with expertise in human-service regulation, found that “inter-rater reliability” in Connecticut’s child care licensing program was very low, meaning that inspectors do not interpret or apply regulations the same way. It also found significant lapses in training for child care providers.

“Many providers, especially those who operate family homes, are forced to choose between training and profitable operation,” says the report, commissioned by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC), in conjunction with the Department of Public Health (DPH).

The review, released this week, recommends that the state develop a policy and procedure manual that specifies how inspections will be conducted and regulations applied; train DPH staff in inspection standards; and offer “targeted, low-cost training” for providers. NARA also recommends that the state’s licensing regulations be “reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure that they remain applicable to current conditions.”

NARA based its findings on an online survey, forums and in-depth interviews of child care providers, parents and licensing staff, conducted from August through December. Among the survey findings was that a majority of providers – 89 percent – believe that DPH treats child care providers in a fair and respectful manner. But more than half of providers – and DPH staff – agreed that the agency did not interpret licensing regulations consistently.

The report comes as the state prepares to shift child care inspections from DPH to OEC in July, in an effort to streamline oversight of children’s programs. It also comes as the director of the OEC and other officials consider boosting oversight of child care facilities, including the frequency of inspections. A recent story by C-HIT detailed lapses in the state’s oversight of child care facilities and the infrequent revocation of licenses when violations were found.

“Our child care licensing program is vital to keeping our children safe, making it especially important that the program be as effective as possible,” OEC Director Myra Jones-Taylor said. “We initiated the process of assessing child care licensing in our state last year and will continue to work to make our system better.”

NARA will continue to work with the child care licensing program on other projects, including a focus group to review current family child care provider regulations.

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