Calling on Mothers – Time to Speak Up!

Last week in Washington, D.C., David Gray and Lisa Guernsey from the New America Foundation’s Workforce and Family Program and Early Education Initiative, led a panel discussion entitled, “Speaking Up: What the Presidential Candidates Should be Saying about Child Care and Early Learning.”

In looking at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one thing about mothers with children is really clear:  they are working!  And, they are working in record numbers compared to 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  While the workforce participation rate today is higher for mothers with school-age children (76.1 percent) compared to mothers with children under age 6 (64 percent) or mothers of infants (55.8 percent), the bottom line is that mothers are working and their income is essential to the support of their families and to this economy. Just how many working mothers is that?  That’s about 12.6 million mothers with children age 6-17 and another 8.1 million mothers with children under age 6.

Despite the fact that so many mothers with young children are working today, there is no talk by the Presidential candidates about the most critical factor that enables mothers to obtain and retain a job. Neither candidate has yet to talk about child care, about the importance of affordable, quality child care to ensure that mothers can work, which helps strengthen our economy and that while they work, their children are safe and in a setting that promotes their healthy development.

That’s just wrong.

Nearly 11 million children are in child care today – on average for 35 hours a week. Child care is hard to find. It’s even harder to afford. And, too often, the quality of child care that is available in communities is questionable. The forum sponsored by the New America Foundation heard from child care experts about the need for:

  • children to be safe in child care
  • quality child care to ensure that children are nurtured to promote their growth and development ultimately leading to their ability to succeed in later school years
  • understanding that turning schools around won’t work without also focusing on the settings children are in during their earliest years
  • assistance for low wage workers so that they don’t turn to welfare

Watch the New America Foundation forum.

Let the Presidential candidates hear from you! Visit our action center and send an email to the candidates today! Ask them what they have to say about child care. Tell them working mothers are listening!

If you agree that it is time for affordable, quality child care, join the Child Care Aware® Parent Network. Let your voice be heard that it’s time to strengthen the quality of child care… and, that not just the Presidential candidates should be talking about child care, but all candidates – those running for Congress, for Governor, and state legislative positions. Together we can make a difference!

Child Care Training Matters!

Playground accidents happen, just ask any parent.  A scraped elbow, a scraped knee, but on September 9,  19-month-old Faith Phillips died from injuries she sustained  just a few days before at a licensed child care center in Wasilla, Alaska.

What happened?  A parent’s worst nightmare.  The toddler’s head became stuck in a hole in some playground equipment and she strangled to death.  The staff of the center rushed around to find someone on staff who knew CPR, but their efforts were not in time.  An investigation is ongoing, but parents wanted to know why all staff did not know CPR,  how many staff were on the playground at the time and whether they were supervising the children or talking as if “on break” among themselves.

The Deputy Commissioner for Family, Community, and Integrated Services within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said an investigation of the center had previously been conducted based on  complaints from parents about a lack of supervision.  In June of 2011, the state found enough evidence to support the complaints related to the supervision of children and fined the center. A correction plan was required but until the current investigation is complete, it is unclear what set of circumstances led to the tragedy. The center is currently closed until further notice.

The Alaska DHSS (in addition to the area DHSS office) and the Wasilla Police Department are investigating the incident.  Gene Belden, Chief of the WPD, said that the death was accidental. State law provides for criminal charges in cases of accidents if it’s proven there was negligence.  Belden said, “It’s a sad thing to have all this interest after something happens instead of prior to it.”

In Alaska, like in many other states, state law requires only one staff person on the premises to be certified in CPR.  We think that’s not enough.  All staff working with children should know and be able to conduct CPR in an emergency.  There should be no rushing around to find someone who can perform CPR.  The child care center in Wasilla had previously been cited for its poor supervisory practices.  The center had been fined.  The center was supposed to implement an improvement plan requiring more effective supervisory practices.  Many states fine programs $200 or $1,000 for certain violations. What dollar amount is enough to ensure that child care providers actually change their behavior for the long-term – not just in the weeks after being cited, but forever?  We don’t know.  We have no studies on that. But, intuitively, the larger the fine, the less likely providers would risk the offense.  How much is a child’s life worth?

At a minimum, the tragic death of Faith Phillips is a wake-up call for training.  Providers need to know CPR and they need to engage in effective supervisory practices.  How did Faith stick her head in the hole in the playground equipment?  How long did she strangle in the equipment before being discovered?  How many adults were on the playground?  Where were they and what were they doing? No doubt the investigation will review these questions.

In the meantime, if we are to prevent accidents like the tragic incident with Faith, we need to call on policymakers to require appropriate training.  Urge your Members of Congress today to require minimum training that includes CPR as part of child care reauthorization legislation.

Are Children in Child Care Safe During Disasters?

Too many states fail to ensure the safety of children in child care during disasters

During normal working hours – which total more than 2,000 hours a year – the safety of nearly 68 million children is in the hands of school officials and child care providers.  Most parents logically assume that when they drop their children off at school or child care, they will be safe if disaster strikes.  But, a new report by Save the Children found that two-thirds of states fail to require basic emergency preparedness for child care programs and schools.  Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia do not meet four basic preparedness recommendations. Twenty-seven states do not require a plan that accounts for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers who can’t help themselves evacuate safely.  Twenty states do not even require an evacuation and relocation plan!

Children should be safe in child care – particularly during a disaster, which can strike with no warning.

Save the Children looked at four very basic disaster preparation requirements.

  • A Plan for Evacuating Children in Child Care. The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written plan for evacuating and moving children to a safe location for multiple types of disasters. The plans must go beyond the provisions of a basic fire drill. [20 states do not require an evacuation plan].
  • A Plan for Reuniting Families after a Disaster.  The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written policy to notify parents of an emergency and reunite parents with their children.  [18 states do not require a plan reuniting families after a disaster].
  •  A Plan for Children with Disabilities and Those with Access and Functional Needs.  The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written plan that accounts for any special assistance an infant, toddler, or child with physical, emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges may need.  [27 states do not require a plan to address the needs of our most vulnerable young children].
  •  A Multi-Hazard Plan for K-12 Schools.  The state requires all K-12 schools to have a disaster plan that accounts for multiple types of hazards.  [9 states do not require a disaster plan for children in schools].

Five states (Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Montana) fail to meet any of the four requirements. Another eight states (Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and South Dakota) fail to meet any of the requirements related to child care programs.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds to the states for child care and sets the framework for state child care laws, has no requirement with regard to disaster preparation for child care programs to ensure children’s safety.   Requiring emergency plans for child care programs as part of CCDBG makes sense.  Disaster plans and preparation can reduce chaos and danger when disaster hits.

Urge your Members of Congress today to require emergency plans for child care programs as part CCDBG reauthorization.  The safety of children in child care depends on it.