Georgia’s home day cares improve, national group says

hduncan@macon.comMarch 14, 2012 

When the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies recently released its newest assessment of small family home day cares nationwide, Georgia rocketed up the ranks.

In Georgia, a license is required for operating a family home day care for anyone who keeps three or more children for pay.

Georgia was ranked No. 38 during the agency’s 2010 report, but due to an overhaul of many day care standards, the state is now ranked 11th among states and the U.S. Department of Defense. (Among states alone, Georgia ranked 10th.)

Georgia’s point score was 84 out of a possible 150 points awarded based on standards for health, provider education, inspections, and educational requirements for children in care.

In 2010, Georgia received zero points in the association’s system because it failed to meet one of the group’s most basic standards: It did not inspect or visit family child care homes before licensing. That changed.

In addition, since the last report, the state has raised educational standards by requiring a child development associate degree for providers and requiring that they undergo more hours of annual training, and it increased requirements for the types of developmental activities that must be provided to children.

However, for the second time, the association recommended that Georgia require the use of state fingerprints for criminal background checks and require a check of the sex offender and child abuse registries. The report noted that the caseload for state day care inspectors also remains very high in Georgia, with each inspector responsible for about 120 day cares.

Pat Willis, executive director of the advocacy organization Voices for Georgia’s Children, said a bill that would have required fingerprint background checks failed to cross from the House to the Senate in time for action during this legislative session. Voices for Georgia’s Children supports that change, as well as increased funding to add staff to support and monitor child care providers.

Willis said the new associate degree requirement was probably the most important change in improving the state’s scores.

“Any time we can help people understand child development and apply it to their care for kids, things are going to improve,” she said.

“This significant improvement is a direct result of continuing efforts made by our providers; the Bright from the Start licensing team and my predecessor” (Holly Robinson), said Bobby Cagle, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, in a news release. “Our goal is to continue building on this improved performance to make early child care in Georgia among the best in the nation.”

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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