Standards differ from state to state |

Standards differ from state to state

Christina Proctor

There are no national child care standards in the United States.

Each state is left to its own devices in forming licensing requirements, and subsidies and grants can vary from county to county.

There is also no uniform training for providers. County child care councils usually offer some type of training program, but it is not a requirement for licensing.

Locally, Choices for Children, a resource and referral service for parents, offers a training program.

In California, individuals who wish to open a family child care center must be CPR certified and complete 12 hours of health and safety training within a 90-day period. They undergo a fingerprint and child abuse check, however, having a criminal record doesn’t immediately eliminate a prospective provider. The crime must be of a serious nature.

The licensing is through the State Department of Social Services and applicants have to pay a $25 fee per year.

The home gets a little closer scrutiny. It must be child proof, clean and safe. Care givers must consider every possibility or scenario and they have to provide a family environment. Providers give up their privacy because officials can drop in and check at any time.

Licenses can be obtained for up to 12 children for one person, but the age ratios are monitored. With a license for six children, for example, only three can be under the age of two. Providers can have 14 with another adult assistant.

Licensing and ratios might come under even closer scrutiny with the new scientific research that indicates that a child’s brain development is significantly affected by their experiences from birth to 3 years of age. The results coming out of labs are likely to make parents reconsider, once again, the wisdom of leaving their children for large parts of the day with others.

Baylor College of Medicine researchers found that children who don’t play much or are rarely touched develop brains 20 to 30 percent smaller than normal for their age – pointedly underscoring the need for a rich day care environment. According to the research, how good or bad a day care situation is might dramatically affect a child’s future potential, yet training and education on early childhood development is not required for every person licensed to watch children.

Child care centers, which operate away from a home setting, require a little more formal training. Teachers at licensed centers in California must have at least 12 credits in child development and six month’s experience.

Even with all the discrepancies and lack of uniform regulations for quality care, administration officials have said President Clinton will not propose national child-care standards when he talks about his child care initiative in the State of the Union address in January. It is a subject that not many agree upon. Conservative legislators state the federal government doesn’t have the right to impose standards and it should be the business of the states.

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