New Regulations for Child Care Centers: A Win-Win for the “state” of Alabama

“We Make Quality Child Care Happen.” Childcare Resources’ tagline clearly states the purpose that drives our mission To make quality care and education of children happen by providing information, education, and assistance to families, providers of child care and the community.  Recently at a staff meeting, our Executive Director, Joan Wright stated: “If quality were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

A recent signing of the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is a reminder that all early care centers need to be offering quality in early care so that our youngest children can build a strong foundation for future success in life. This is an investment that has the potential to produce positive short and long term benefits for children, families, communities and the overall condition of the state of Alabama.

On November 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the reauthorization of a bill that supports the welfare of all children in the U.S. The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 is not new, but Congress added new regulations this time. One significant new regulation is a required annual inspection for all child care centers that accept children who receive federal child care subsidies.

A recent publication on the Child Care Aware of America website explains that the bill includes measures to promote quality child care by increasing state-level investments in activities to improve the quality of care. The publication addresses the strengthening of health and safety requirements, training requirements for staff, child to staff ratios among other factors. These regulations will be required of centers serving children who receive federal subsidies

According to a recent article, additional requirements under the CCDBG reauthorization include background checks for all employees in a child care facility. This article includes a statement by Alabama’s Department of Human Resources’ (DHR) Commissioner Nancy Buckner who supports the changes explaining that there are a lot of details to be determined about the new rules, which would be phased in over the next few years.

There are 882 centers in Alabama that are exempt from licensing and as a result are not subject to DHR minimum standards  for the care of children. As of October, 440 of those exempt centers had children who attend the center with the assistance of federal subsidy dollars. These centers will be subject to the new rules.

When centers are mandated to follow guidelines for best practices, these practices are more likely to be handled as a priority instead of an option. It helps the program have clarity about what research has proven to be the most important elements of quality practice in a child care program. When a program has this clarity and implements these critical elements of quality into their services, they can confidently market their program as a place that families can trust for quality care. Families then have more choices as they look for just the right place for their children. The regulations create a win-win situation for children and families.

The positive ripple effect of the reauthorization also reaches the attempts that parents are making to be present and productive in the workforce and to further their own level of education.  According to a recent publication from Child Care Aware of America, the reauthorization includes measures to improve access to child care by expanding eligibility for participating families and helping families connect with quality programs that meet their needs. When parents feel comfortable and confident with the center caring for their child or children they stand a better chance of being more focused at work.  Those who are students can perform well as they work toward creating more opportunities for themselves and their children.  The regulations help families who qualify for federal subsidies for child care to have a better chance at advancing their efforts for a better quality of life.

Last year I adopted the Mercedes motto “The best or nothing” as a way of communicating to early care educators that doing the best for children should always be embraced as non-negotiable because the physical, cognitive, social and emotional well being of each child is at stake every single day. Regulations based on best proven practices create an environment of “The best or nothing.” They send the message that early care is serious business and that it is everybody’s business because it impacts all lives. Our state and the “state” of where we live stand a better chance for success when clarity and accountability are present for our youngest residents.  

Clear regulations with accountability will promote what every child should be freely given: a chance at a great start in life because no one gets a second chance at childhood.