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. The state now inspects centers once every two years — far less frequently than the Child Care Aware recommendation of quarterly inspections. Family day care homes are inspected once every three years.
The budget proposal says, “The frequency of child care licensing inspections needs to increase . . . so child care inspections can occur on an annual basis. “ The addition of 28 staff would more than double the current inspection staff of 25.
In July, licensing oversight will shift from DPH to the state’s new Office of Early Childhood. The director of that office, Myra Jones-Taylor, has said she supports increasing the frequency of health and safety inspections.
In addition to strengthening oversight, the proposed budget would allocate $5.3 million to launch a public Quality Rating and Improvement System that would grade child care providers on a tiered scale. It also calls for the creation of “regional quality improvement centers” that would disseminate training and best practices for providers.
Connecticut recently lost out on a federal “Race to the Top” grant that would have funded a quality-rating system and made other improvements to child care quality.
The governor’s budget also would provide 1,020 new pre-kindergarten slots statewide in 2014-15, with the ultimate goal of providing “universal access” to pre-K by the end of 2019.
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