Commission on Early Childhood and
Child Day Care Programs

November 17, 1997, Richmond

The commission convened this fall in order to look at protection of children and quality care issues in day care settings in the Commonwealth.

Proving Identity

First, the commission considered a bill referred to it by the House Committee on Education at the conclusion of the 1997 General Assembly Session. The legislation extends existing Virginia law on requiring proof of a child's identity upon enrollment in school to attendance at licensed and unlicensed child day centers. The legislative counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) spoke on behalf of the legislation.

According to the National Incidence Studies on Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children published by the Department of Justice in 1990, there are as many as 354,000 children abducted by family members every year. The study went on to say that, because of the increased divorce, mobility and custody fights, the incidence of family abduction "is probably the most rapidly growing" of all forms of child victimization they studied. Further, several studies show that children between the ages of three and five are the most frequently abducted. Most children in that age group are not enrolled in public schools, but are more likely to be found in day care centers. The NCMEC representative argued that if the Commonwealth has recognized the importance of locating missing children through the use of school records, the next logical step would be to require the same proof of identity for young children in day care settings.

The commission generally supported the concept of the legislation and recommended that the bill be expanded to include day care homes. The chair directed staff to incorporate this recommendation and address some technical changes to the legislation.

Early Childhood Development

Second, the commission heard from the state coordinator of the "I Am Your Child" campaign, which is a public/private partnership to make early childhood development a top priority of the nation. Recent brain research on infants and toddlers has proven that early experiences have a decisive impact on the architecture of the brain and on the nature and extent of adult capacities. The goals of the "I Am Your Child" campaign are to:

  • raise public awareness;
  • provide families with young children with information, resources and services;
  • unite and expand the national, state and local efforts to improve services for young children; and
  • increase public willingness to make quality services and resources available to families with young children.

    To achieve these goals, the state initiatives recommended are home visiting to promote healthy pregnancies and transition to parenthood; child care development to enhance availability, as well as safety and health of infants and toddlers; and child development training for parents and child care providers, which promotes brain development research. Virginia has the following initiatives to promote the "I Am Your Child" goals:

  • Hampton Healthy Families Partnership,
  • Car seat distribution,
  • Healthy Start Initiative,
  • Brain Development Training Grant application,
  • Home visitation programs,
  • Regional Perinatal Coordinating Councils,
  • Part H High Risk Tracking System,
  • HELPLINE with the Department of Social Services, and
  • SCHIP planning with DMAS to expand Medicaid health care to uninsured and underinsured children.

    The Virginia Department of Health has a number of prevention programs to promote the health and safety of infants and toddlers, and health nurses serve as consultants to child care providers.

    DSS Activities

    Third, the commission heard from the Department of Social Services (DSS) concerning the department's activities to improve the quality of child care, including Head Start Expansion programs, scholarship assistance, consumer education, resource and referral and the grants to localities under the Local DSS Quality Initiative Program. DSS also told the commission that the child day care automation system is scheduled for implementation in the fall of 1998.

    The Honorable Stanley C. Walker, Chairman
    Legislative Services contact: Amy Marschean