On March 31, updated family home child care licensing rules will go into effect for our state’s 5,000 family home child care providers. The updated rules support healthy, safe, nurturing care by:
- Requiring family home providers to have a high school diploma or GED, a child development associate credential or 45 credits of child development. Existing providers have until March 31, 2017, to attain this education.
- Limiting screen time, including video games and movies, to two hours per day.
- Increasing playground safety to reduce injuries caused by falling from climbing equipment and swings.
- Reflecting new federal standards around crib safety.
- Requiring a higher level of communication between providers and parents around child development and child care philosophy.
- Enhancing background checks for those who work or live in the home.
A recent Washington Post article about a baby’s death in a Virginia family home child care illustrates why family home child care rules are so important. Earlier this month, Dateline NBC aired an investigation about background checks for child care providers across the nation. At least 11 states, including Washington, have comprehensive background screening systems—39 states do not. The investigation went on to illustrate case after case of people with criminal backgrounds caring for children and the devastating consequences that have happened in some cases.
These reports illustrate the contrast between Washington’s rules and what other states require – or not. Some states require no criminal background checks, training (including CPR) or even basic inspections. In 2012, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) ranked Washington ranked second in the nation for strong, thorough family home child care licensing policies. Sixteen states scored zero points out of 150 because they do not regulate family home child care or do not inspect before licensing providers. Washington’s rules are just the basis of what children and families deserve in child care.
Washington started regulation family home child care rules in the 1960s after a fire in a family home child care killed three children. Since the 1960s, we have made great strides to ensure children’s safety in family home child care and child care center settings. In recent years, parents and child development professionals have recognized the need for child care professionals, with whom young children who attend spend the majority of their waking hours, to help prepare children for success in school and life. Our state is one of many around the nation making a push toward increased quality in child care as a key school readiness strategy. The bulk of Washington’s recent $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant will support child care providers in boosting the quality of their programs through coaching, incentives and professional development. These updated rules help provide the foundation.
Family home child care providers are an integral part of the local economy, offering care for families while parents work, look for work or go to school. The revised family home child care rules are meant to support providers as small business owners. While there is—understandably—anxiety among some providers about meeting these updated rules, DEL is committed to helping them succeed. Families demand and deserve high-quality care, and we must help ensure communities can meet that demand.
The Department of Early Learning wants child care providers to succeed. Their success equals children’s success. And that is good for everyone.