Press Releases

Report: State Child Care Laws Fail to Protect Children

April 11, 2013

 Child Care Aware® of America Releases We Can Do Better: 2013 Update,

Ranking of State Child Care Center Regulations and Oversight

Arlington, VA - Most states do little to protect the health and safety of children in child care, according to a report released today by Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies). In We Can Do Better: 2013 Update, Child Care Aware® of America scored and ranked state laws governing child care centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense (DoD) on 11 program requirements and four oversight benchmarks. State rankings show modest improvements since 2011.

The average score was 92 out of 150 points – the equivalent of 61 percent, a "D" in most classrooms in America. There were no "A"s and only DoD scored a "B." The remaining top 10 states (New York, Washington, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and Tennessee) earned a "C." Twenty-one states earned a "D" and the remaining 20 states earned a score of 60 or less, a failing grade.

"Families want their children to be safe in child care. They reasonably assume that a child care license means the state has approved some minimum level of protection for children and that the program will promote their healthy development. Our nationwide polling shows that parents also believe there is oversight by the state," said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director at Child Care Aware® of America. "However, most state licensing requirements are weak and oversight is weaker. Any grade equating to a "D" or below is simply unsatisfactory. "

While some states have improved child care policies since Child Care Aware® of America’s last center update in 2011, state policies vary widely. Only 13 states require comprehensive background checks. Nine states do not require any type of inspection at least once a year. California inspects child care centers once every five years. This year’s report shows four more states are now posting inspection reports online so that families have easy access to information. Only 31 states plus DoD post monitoring reports.

"Posting reports online is simple and costs little; in many cases it may cost nothing," said Fraga. "Families need access to information so they can be educated consumers. It is time for all states to post inspection reports on the Internet so that parents can make informed choices when selecting child care."

While the report shows modest improvement in training requirements for staff hired to work in child care centers, overall, training requirements throughout the states are weak. Required levels of education for staff are minimal. Seventeen states do not require a high school diploma for an individual to be a lead teacher in a child care center classroom. Another 14 states require only a high school diploma.

"The key to quality child care is a strong child care workforce," said Fraga. "The most concerning part of weak training requirements is that in so many states, the minimum education level required of staff is low. This makes training critical to ensure the safety and well-being of children."

The report found:

* Only 16 states address each of 10 basic health requirements and 10 basic safety requirements recommended by pediatric experts.

* Only 21 states require training in child development.

* Only nine states plus DoD require initial training in CPR for all staff

* Only 21 states call for a head count when children leave child care vans.

* Five states do not check the child abuse registry before allowing an individual to work in a center.

* Five states do not have policies for infants with regard to safe sleep practices.

"Quality programs make a real difference for children," said Fraga. "However, it’s hard to have a quality program with little training for staff and infrequent oversight. The result is what we have today: a large gap between what parents reasonably assume and expect, and the reality of state policies."

About $10 billion in federal funds is spent on child care every year. To ensure that children are in settings that are safe and promote their healthy development, Child Care Aware® of America recommends that Congress reauthorize and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to:

* Require background checks based on fingerprints and a check of the child abuse registry and sex offender registry for all child care providers paid to care for unrelated children.

* Require states to establish minimum health and safety requirements and enforce them through regular unannounced inspections of all licensed child care programs.

* Require states to post inspection findings on the internet so that parents can make informed choices.

* Require all child care workers to have at least 40 hours of initial training (including CPR, first-aid and other basic health and safety training in addition to child development) and complete 24 hours of annual training.

* Authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold funding from states that do not require minimum protections for children and that do not conduct regular unannounced inspections of child care settings.

* Require emergency plans so that children are safe during times of natural disaster or crises.

* Increase the quality set-aside under CCDBG to 12 percent, gradually increasing to 25 percent, on par with Head Start.

For a full copy of We Can Do Better: 2013 Update and a complete set of the report’s recommendations, click  here

About Child Care Aware® of America

Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA) is our nation’s leading voice for child care. We work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every community have access to quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, offer comprehensive training to child care professionals, undertake groundbreaking research and advocate for child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about Child Care Aware® of America and how you can join us in ensuring quality child care for all families, visit