Commission on Early Childhood and
Child Day Care Programs
September 23, 1997, Richmond
Last fall, Chairman Walker asked the General Assembly
to request that the Joint Legislative Audit and Review
Commission (JLARC) do a follow-up study of the Regulation and
Provision of Child Day Care in Virginia. The 1990 JLARC
report reviewed the regulation of child day care, as well as
methods for improving the availability and quality of child care in
Virginia. The commission convened on September 23rd to
analyze JLARC's current recommendations and to discuss
legislative action for the 1998 General Assembly Session.
In its follow-up study, JLARC evaluated (i) the current
regulatory system for child day care to determine how well it
ensures the state's interest in protecting the health and safety
of children in care, (ii) the effectiveness of the Department of
Social Services' licensing program in enforcing child care
regulations, and (iii) the efficacy of the allocation and
administration of state funding for child care. Among JLARC's findings
- Virginia's child day care regulation is in the mid-range
of regulations among the 50 states. Regulations regarding
staff-child ratios and staff qualifications should not be weakened.
Recommended improvements include the addition of
regulations to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,
improvement of supervision of children in family day homes,
requiring Child Protective Services (CPS) central registry
checks of day care center staff, and the exclusion of convicted
felons under certain circumstances from providing child care.
- The consolidation of the child day care regulatory
function in a single regulatory board to ensure regulatory
consistency for all day care providers.
- The Department of Social Services (DSS) should hire
sufficient staff to ensure that it conducts two annual inspections
of each day care facility, pursuant to state law, and give staff
more authority to address quickly violations that they find. In
FY 1996, DSS failed to complete the required two inspections
for 722 facilities. For 159 facilities, no routine inspections are
being completed, and, in some instances, the facilities have
not been visited for two years. Moreover, when DSS does find
violations, it takes a year or more for the department to
complete enforcement action against problem facilities.
- DSS has, contrary to the intent of the Appropriations
Act, used day care funds earmarked for low-income working
families for the day care needs of public assistance recipients.
- The Virginia Child Care and Development Fund
(CCDF) plan that was submitted to the federal government on July
1, 1997, is inappropriately based on local income, not the cost
of living. At present, the plan is unfair to residents of core
cities such as Norfolk and Richmond and to residents of
Northern Virginia. A more equitable distribution of funds to all
localities is recommended.
The DSS deputy commissioner of operations stated that
DSS concurred with many of the JLARC recommendations,
including the recommendation to consolidate the regulatory
function into one board. However, he stated that DSS is not asking
the 1998 General Assembly for either additional funding for
staff or exemptions from administrative hiring freezes in order
to perform inspections. Despite the fact that the JLARC
report said child-care licensing inspectors were not performing
the legally required inspections, the deputy commissioner
stated that the problem will be addressed through reorganization
and purchase of computer technology. In addition, DSS has
privately contracted a study, expected to be completed in
February, to evaluate whether the caseloads of inspectors are too high.
As for income eligibility for state child-care aid under the
CCDF Plan, the JLARC cost of living approach was considered
and rejected by DSS.
Several speakers commented on the JLARC
recommendations. First, the president of the Virginia Association for
Early Childhood Education (VAECE) supported the recommendations.
In particular, VAECE emphasized the finding by JLARC
that Virginia's child day center regulations are in the
mid-range, that the great majority of facilities felt that the regulations
are not burdensome or too stringent, and that 22 percent said
that some regulations were not stringent enough. VAECE
suggested that this finding bears out its position that the Child Day
Care Council's proposed changes to the standards are
unnecessary, ill-advised, and/or supported by only a small group of
Second, the president of Rainbow Station, Inc., a
representative of for-profit child care facilities serving over 600
children in Richmond, strongly supported the JLARC position
that current day care regulations could be improved. She also
advocated adoption of regulations that would increase the
educational and training requirements of center directors and
teachers in light of recent brain research.
Third, the executive director of the Proprietary Child
Care Association of Virginia (PCCAV) agreed with most of
JLARC's findings. He stated that PCCAV has received complaints
from its members that DSS licensing inspectors spend six to
eight hours at a single facility and advocated greater efficiencies
in such inspections. However, PCCAV does not support the
JLARC finding that child day center employees should be
screened through the CPS central registry. PCCAV believes the
central registry should be eliminated or be used solely as intended: as
a confidential tracking tool for internal CPS purposes.
Finally, the chair of the Child Day-Care Council reported that she
has appointed subcommittees to gather further information
regarding the CPS registry concern and the Sudden Infant Death
Syndrome concern in the JLARC report.
The chair of the Council on Child Day Care provided
an update on the child day center regulations. The proposed
regulations were published in The Virginia
Register on September 29, 1997, commencing the 60-day comment period. There
will be five public hearings in late November. The chair stated
the regulations make "numerous changes for clarity, decreased
intrusiveness and appropriate protection of children."
At the conclusion of the meeting, the chairman directed
legislative staff to prepare bills and budget amendments for
the 1998 General Assembly Session to address the JLARC
recommendations and called for the commission to convene a
public hearing to allow comment on the legislative proposals.
The public hearing has been scheduled for December 15, 1997.
The Honorable Stanley C. Walker, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Amy Marschean