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.

JLARC Recommendations

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 and recommendations:

  • 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.

DSS Response

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.

Other Comments

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 providers.

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."

Public Hearing

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