Connecticut will step up its oversight of child care centers and family daycare homes by requiring annual health and safety inspections – joining 41 other states that inspect such facilities at least once a year. Lawmakers approved a proposal by the Malloy administration to double the number of inspectors for child care facilities and increase the frequency of inspections – now once every two years for centers, and once every three years for family homes. The state’s Office of Early Childhood (OEC) will hire and oversee 28 new inspectors, who will join 25 inspectors and 15 other licensing staff already employed by the Department of Public Health. “This is an incredible move for the state of Connecticut . .
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget for FY 2015 includes $1.5 million to add 28 child care inspectors, so that the frequency of licensing inspections of day care facilities can be increased to once a year. The budget also includes funding to launch a statewide quality-rating system for child care centers, and to improve the way background checks of child care staff are conducted. The proposals come after a December story by C-HIT revealed lapses in child care oversight, including infrequent inspections by the state Department of Public Health and a lack of strong enforcement actions against providers found with health and safety violations. Also, a state audit in October found DPH was not verifying that the required criminal background checks were being done on all child care employees – posing a risk that children were coming into contact with “unsuitable individuals,” the auditors said. Connecticut ranked 48th in oversight of child care centers – with the third highest caseload per inspector in the country – in a 2013 national report by Child Care Aware of America.
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.
The director of the state’s Office of Early Childhood said Thursday she supports increasing the frequency of health and safety inspections of child care facilities, in the wake of a C-HIT story detailing lapses in oversight. “We’re definitely looking into adding inspectors and increasing the inspection frequency” to once a year, said Myra Jones-Taylor, who took the helm of the new office in July. “We’re very much focused on the opportunities we have to improve oversight.”
Jones-Taylor’s comments follow a December story by C-HIT that detailed lapses in oversight of the state’s child care centers and family day care homes. A national report by Child Care Aware of America ranks Connecticut 48th in oversight of child care centers, with the third highest caseload per inspector in the country. Connecticut inspects centers once every two years — far less frequently than the Child Care Aware recommendation of quarterly inspections – and rarely revokes or suspends providers’ licenses after violations are cited, the C-HIT review found.
On its website, the Tumble Bugs Day School in Norwalk boasts a “highly experienced, nurturing” staff who serve infants and toddlers in a “stimulating setting.”
But a review of state Department of Public Health records shows the child care center has had numerous complaints and citations in recent years for lapses in supervision that have injured and traumatized young children. In 2010, the center failed to notify parents when a balancing board fell on a toddler. The same year, DPH cited the center for failing to take action against a staff member who restrained a toddler on a cot by “holding down his head and body” and then falsely reported that a scratch on the boy’s face was an accident. Then, in 2011, two children came forward to report that a preschool teacher had sexually abused them during naptime – an allegation that led to the April 2012 arrest of a 44-year-old Harold Meyers, who worked at the center in 2008 and 2009. DPH investigated the case last year, but determined that the center had made oversight changes and that no further action was needed.