Press Releases

Congress Sits on Critical Legislation While Children Are in Unsafe Child Care

July 12, 2005

Washington, DC – Yesterday on the Dr. Phil show, America saw examples of how devastating bad quality child care can be for some children and their parents.

"Many of these child care tragedies occur because of weak child care regulations and a lack of funding to support even basic licensing, inspections, and training programs," says Linda Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

According to Smith, Congress has failed four years in a row to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the primary source of funds for child care in the United States. "We must take action to ensure that parents can trust that their children are in safe, healthy and nurturing care and that means providing funds for the most basic of government functions - oversight."

Each day in the United States, over 12.5 million children under the age of six are in some form of non-parental child care. Although licensing standards are the first step to ensuring basic health and safety in child care, these standards vary widely from state to state in both their content and who is even required to meet them.

According to Smith, "Over half of all children are in the care of an unlicensed caregiver who likely has little or no training or education."

One key to ensuring that children are in healthy and safe environments is the regular inspection of child care programs. No state regulates or inspects nannies. Although inspections are critical, they are one of the first things cut in state budgets. For example in California, recent budget cuts have forced a reduction in the number of programs inspected. As a result, only a random sample of 10 percent of the state's licensed programs are inspected each year. In Missouri, state budget cuts reduced the state's child care licensing and inspection staff by 25 percent.

"I think the average parent in the United States assumes that their child care is regularly inspected, but this is far from the truth," added Smith.

Research shows that the quality of child care is critical to a child's development and ultimate success in later life. The quality of care depends on the quality of the relationship and trust between the child and the caregiver. Despite the research, 36 states require no pre-service training for child care workers. This means that anyone can care for children without knowing basic CPR, First Aid, or even how to change a diaper.

Many parents are forced to use unlicensed care because of the cost. The cost of high quality, licensed child care for infants and toddlers is almost double the cost of tuition at a four-year public college. The cost ranges from $4,000 to $13,000 a year.

Child care is a fact of life in the United States . Despite this, reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant has been stalled for over four years. This program is the primary funding source for states for inspections, training programs, and cash assistance to low income families to help cover the cost of child care. The delays have led to cuts in oversight of child care programs.

Basic health and safety is a necessity for young children - who either learn to trust the adults who care for them - or become afraid because of situations such as those shown on the Dr. Phil show. Dr. Phil has highlighted a dilemma faced every day by millions of American families – who to trust with their children. The question is: can Congress find the resources to ensure the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens? For information on how to identify quality child care and how to find licensed care, please go to to find your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R).

Questions Parents Can Ask Their Child Care Provider:

  1. Are you licensed by the state or city?
  2. Are you accredited by a national organization such as the National Association of Family Child Care or National Association for the Education of Young Children? (note: licensing and accreditation are NOT the same thing)
  3. How often are you inspected? Are the inspection visits unannounced?
  4. Have you had any licensing violations? (ask to see the licensing inspection report)
  5. Have you ever been accused of child abuse or neglect? (allegations of child abuse will not show up in background checks in many states)
  6. Describe your training and preparation for your job.

Information on finding and selecting quality child care and other parenting resources:

  • Child Care Aware helps parents find the best information on locating quality child care and child care resources in their community, connecting parents with the local agencies best equipped to serve their needs. Call toll-free: 1-800-424-2246.
  • NACCRRA's Parent Central is the source for resources and information about issues affecting children and families. Find information on child development, tips related to raising children or using child care, and fun activities to do with children
  • State licensing regulations: What is required in your state?
    Visit the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care website for a state-by-state listing of child care licensing and regulations, as well as links to local resources.

About Child Care Resource and Referral: Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies help families find, select, and pay for child care, as well as provide training and support to child care providers and help communities and states meet their child care and parenting needs. Through the Child Care Aware® program, funded through a cooperative agreement with the Child Care Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half a million families each year are connected to their community Child Care Resource and Referral agencies through the national hotline and Web site,

About NACCRRA: Child Care Aware® is one of NACCRRA's many initiatives to improve the development and learning of all children by providing leadership and support to state and community Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and promoting national policies and partnerships that facilitate universal access to quality child care. NACCRRA is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., representing a network of more than 850 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies across the country. To find out more information about NACCRRA, go to