Health and Family Services Cabinet
Ensuring quality child care is a team effort
Editors Note: Please consider including the following editorial on your editorial pages. A photo of Inspector General Reynolds is included in a jpg file. For further information, please contact Janis Stewart, Office of Communications, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, (502) 564-6786, ext. 3326.
Ensuring quality child care is a team effort
By Sadiqa N. Reynolds, Inspector General
Cabinet for Health and Family Services
We all want the best for our children, at home or in a child care facility. As Inspector General of the agency responsible for regulating Kentucky child care facilities and, more importantly, as a mother, I know that the morning drop off at daycare can be an emotional time filled with worry and uncertainty for parents. Providing parents with reassurance that their children are in a safe and nurturing environment is a top priority of my office, under the direction of Governor Steve Beshear and Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) helps keep Kentucky’s children safe by performing inspections and investigations of child care facilities. The OIG is responsible for certifying 799 homes and licensing 2,419 day care facilities, 126 child-placing agencies and 72 group homes throughout Kentucky. Last year alone we conducted nearly 3,000 annual licensure and certification surveys, and investigated more than 1,500 complaints.
During routine surveys we evaluate aspects of operation such as staff to child ratios, supervision and environmental issues, daily programming schedules, safe play areas, proper transportation accommodations such as car seats and seat belts, and timely employee background checks. Whenever possible we work with child care facilities to improve services, but we will not hesitate to act if our findings indicate that children may be in harm’s way because a facility does not meet licensure standards.
Obviously, OIG staff are not present at child care facilities all of the time. Parents also have a key role to play by choosing the child care facility best suited to serve the needs of their child. Before making this important decision, I encourage parents to:
– Visit the facility, and ask questions of the director and the staff who work directly with the children.
– Use your senses – sight, smell, hearing, etc. – to observe the surroundings.
– Inquire about staff turnover and job satisfaction.
– Ask to allow your child to spend some time in the center before signing a contract.
– Check for cleanliness and wear and tear of furnishings, toys, carpeting and paint.
– Examine staffing to children ratios – for instance, there should be one staff member for every five children ages birth to 1 year.
– Assess staff and child behaviors - Do staff members interact well with the children? Do they address the children by name, respond to their needs, get on the floor with the children, or sit or stand away from the children? Are the children participating in interactive activities?
– Don’t hesitate to ask for references from other parents and follow up with those parents about their experience with the facility.
– Most importantly – trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel quite right to you, do not leave your child.
Parents have the right to know they are leaving their children with people they can trust. That’s why all child care facility employees must undergo two background checks; a criminal background check from the Kentucky State Police or the Administrative Office of the courts and an abuse registry check through the Department for Community Based Services. Kentucky law requires a person to pass both types of background checks in order to work at a child care facility. The background checks must be requested immediately upon hiring a new employee, received within 180 days, and placed in the personnel file for review by our surveyors. All new employees must be directly supervised until these requirements are met. There are no exceptions.
Parents may also ask facility staff for the latest OIG report and license, which contains information about any problems as well as the maximum occupancy and services provided. You should feel empowered to speak up on behalf of your child and let facility directors or staff know if you see problems.
If you do not see improvements after voicing your concerns or believe we need to address a problem directly, please report complaints or concerns to the OIG at (502) 564-7962 or online at http://chfs.ky.gov/oig/complaintinfo.htm. All complaints are kept confidential. Parents can find more resources on the OIG Web site at http://chfs.ky.gov/oig/drcc.htm.
There are many wonderful child care providers in this state that should be applauded for the job they do. By working together, we as parents, care providers and state regulators can better ensure that quality child care is available for Kentucky's children.
Sadiqa N. Reynolds is Inspector General for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.