California ranks among the worst states in the nation at providing oversight of child care services, a recent study by the nonprofit Child Care Aware of America (CCAA) revealed.
CCAA examined 15 benchmarks for the success of child care services, and among 52 entities (including the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense), California ranks 50th in the country, according to an analysis of the report conducted by the Orange County Register. The only two states to rank worse than California are Idaho and Nebraska.
Among the most egregious problems: California only requires its child care centers to be inspected once every five years. The national average is reportedly four inspections per year.
The study’s findings represent a veritable failing report card for child care services in the Golden State.
The study breaks down child care facilities into two categories: in-home facilities, and larger public child care centers.
Of all in-home child care providers licensed to provide care to eight or more children, 452 have been cited 10 times or more for threats or potential threats to children’s safety over the past five years. 29 of those 452 facilities are in Orange County. 59 of the 452 facilities have been cited at least 20 times, 12 were cited at least 30 times, and one was cited no less than 60 times.
Of all the larger public facilities, 693 had been cited at least 10 times for threats or potential threats to children’s safety in the past five years, 69 of which are in Orange County. One hundred and sixteen have been cited 20 or more times, 34 were cited at least 30 times, 9 were cited at least 40 times, and one was cited an astonishing 70 times.
Additionally, the study found that inspections at child care facilities are conducted so infrequently that “parents cannot have confidence that programs follow health, safety and child development-related requirements.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” parent Troy Lawson told the Register. In 2001, Lawson’s son Brandon died at the Laguna Hills home of a child care provider after he stopped breathing. Seven years later, another child died in the same home. Although the provider’s state licensing file was full of complaints that the provider drank wine while she cared for the children, and in some cases, physically abused them, Lawson told the Register he had never seen those files.
“Had I been privy to that information, we would never have left our son there,” Lawson told the paper.
Lawson never saw the files because state law in 2001 did not require providers to share reports of child deaths due to natural causes. After three children died at a Los Alamitos child care facility, the state began requiring death reports in providers’ licensing files. Additionally, a state law passed last year reportedly requires the California Department of Social Services to collect all complaints and citations a provider has received over the past five years.
However, the nature of the complaints and citations are not independently verified by any oversight entity.
“I was a working parent outside of the home for the first eight years of my parenting experience,” Orange County Child Care Association president Lee Allton told the Register. “Quite frankly, there was no real organized entity to assist parents in finding quality child care, and the system was so broken that when I showed up to the facility where my two-year-old daughter was entrusted, I found she had been slapped in her face, the mark was fresh and she was hysterically crying.”
Since then, Allton formed her own child-care service, and is an advocate for expanded provider data on the Internet.
“I want to know the serious complaints that could harm my loved ones,” Allton told the paper. “Since the Internet is such an important communication vehicle of our times, it is important that both provider and parent continue to share relevant information in the most efficient way possible.”
Michael Weston, spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, ultimately agreed that parents are the key to the safety and well-being of their own children.
“We’re really trying to educate parents and get them involved,” Weston told the Register. “They are in and out of the facilities every day. They see a lot more than we do. They are an intricate part of our enforcement.”