Harrisonburg Parent Speaks at HHS Quality Child Care Press Event

Elly Lafkin, Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leader, praises U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Proposed Child Care Regulations

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ARLINGTON, Va., May 17, 2013—Elly Lafkin, a Harrisonburg parent, represented parents across the country at a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press event Thursday where Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proposed new health and safety guidelines for child care settings, including fingerprint background checks of providers.

Elly Lafkin, whose 13-week-old daughter died while in child care, spoke at the event, which was held at Centro Nia, a bilingual, multicultural early learning center in the nation’s capital. “To me, anyone in the business of caring for someone else’s child ought to have a comprehensive background check,” said Lafkin.

“This is an important step for children, and we’re pleased to see many of our longstanding recommendations in today’s announcement, such as CPR certification, safe sleep, and background checks based on fingerprints,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America. “Millions of working parents depend on child care and assume certain safety measures are already in place for their children, however state policies vary widely. Parents need to know their children are safe and in a setting that promotes their healthy development.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the event, “Many children already benefit from the excellent care of high quality child care providers who are meeting or exceeding the proposed requirements. However, too many children remain in settings that do not meet minimum standards of health and safety. These basic rules ensure that providers take necessary basic steps to shield children from an avoidable tragedy.”

Lafkin and her husband, Cameron, decided to put their infant daughter, Camden, in a family child care home after a referral from two friends. The Lafkins ran a Virginia court-operated, public knowledge background check, and nothing suspicious was found. They did not know that the background check was not based on fingerprints so it did not reveal a list of alias names their provider used in the past.

After only four weeks, they received the call no parent wants to receive. Their daughter was found unresponsive while in the provider’s care. After further investigation, the Lafkins found out that the child care provider had methamphetamine and marijuana in the home, as well as six children, which should have required a license.

Elly and Cameron are now strong advocates for comprehensive background checks, including fingerprint checks against state and federal records, for all child care providers to ensure that no family has to suffer the tragedy that has happened to them.

Today, nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care setting every week. On average, children of working mothers spend 35 hours every week in child care. Studies repeatedly have shown that quality child care helps children enter school ready to learn.

For more information, please contact Tracey Schaefer at 703-341-4148 or tracey.schaefer@usa.childcareaware.org.

Child Care Aware® of America 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 local community have access to high quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate 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 access to quality child care for all families, visit us at www.usa.childcareaware.org.

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Parents want affordable, quality child care!

Affordable, quality child care is something every family is looking for. Whether parents need child care Monday- Friday, 9-5 or just a few days a week in the evenings, safety and affordability is at the top of every parent’s mind. Without that peace of mind, parents cannot go into work focused, the safety of their children will always be a distraction.

In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts. These fees for an infant exceeded annual median rent payments in 22 states and the District of Columbia. With the cost of care so high, many parents believe they are receiving quality care, which is not necessarily the case.  Many parents logically assume that background checks are required for licensed child care providers. The reality is that the logical assumptions of parents far exceed federal and state laws.

Only thirteen states require staff hired to work in child care centers to have a comprehensive background check: a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check of the child abuse and neglect registry and a check of the sex offender registry. Not to mention, most states have only minimal training requirements– with some having none.

The video above showcases the skyrocketing cost of child care. Parents are looking for alternative ways and many times will sacrifice safety for cost. Parents should not have to sacrifice anything to afford quality care for their children.

Parent Leaders in the News

In the past week, two Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leaders have been highlighted by local television stations looking to share their child care stories. Each parent has a unique story to tell, yet are both equally important.

The first parent who was featured, was Jennie Dexter from Oklahoma. She focuses on the lack of accessibility in finding affordable, quality child care. She has had to move her daughter to four different facilities in the last three years due to centers closing.

Jennie also discusses the cost of child care in her area, which at one point reached $900 per month. She and her husband are not eligible for a child care subsidy, which at times, has left them struggling to make ends meet. To hear more about Jennie’s story and others like her in Oklahoma, click here to watch the news story from OETA.

The second Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leader who was featured on a local television station this past week was Le’Vaughn Johnson in Georgia. Le’Vaughn met with state legislators in Georgia to reintroduce a bill to require those working in child care to get a comprehensive background check prior to working with children. Le’Vaughn’s son, Quale, died in a child care program (click here to read her story).  To watch Le’Vaughn’s interview with WSBTV, please click here.

Are you a parent advocate in your state? We would love to hear your story! Please click here to share your story today!

Georgia House Bill 46 Petition

Le’Vaughn Johnson is one of Child Care Aware® of America’s parent leaders fighting for stronger child care laws.  Le’Vaughn’s 2-month-old son, Quale, died in a licensed family child care home in Dekalb County, Georgia.

Le’Vaughn did what many parents do. She asked around the community for recommendations for good child care providers.  She checked out several and made a selection.  She was told the state of Georgia required a background check and so she felt comfortable that the provider she selected was safe.

The death certificate for Quale listed “SIDS” – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  But, Quale was found in a pool of blood under his head. Le’Vaughn didn’t believe the cause was SIDS.  She pressed and pressed for an investigation.  Later, the cause of death was changed to “undetermined.”  What she found was shocking.

  1. The state of Georgia requires a background check, but that does not include a check of the state child abuse registry.
  2. The child care provider caring for Quale had numerous licensing violations and citations – including her lack of first-aid training, lack of CPR certification, and citations for inadequate supervision.

The provider that Le’Vaughn selected had a history with the GA Child Protective Services agency, but with no required check of the child abuse registry, the provider was granted a child care license.  Le’Vaughn is working hard to ensure that no parents have to go through what she did – that kind of life lesson is just too tough.

Currently, legislation has been introduced in Georgia by State Rep. Billy Mitchell that would require a comprehensive background check for all child care providers (those employed in child care centers as well as those operating family child care homes).  A comprehensive check would include a fingerprint check against state and federal records as well as check of the child abuse registry.

Le’Vaughn has started a petition to the Governor and other state legislators to support Rep. Mitchell’s bill.  Children should be safe in child care.

Add your name to Le’Vaughn’s petition today.

LVJ

Parent Leader Meets with Virginia State Senator

Parent Leader Meets with Virginia State Senator
to Urge Stronger Background Checks for Child Care Providers

RICHMOND , Va., Jan. 24, 2013 – Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leader Elly Lafkin met with the Chairman of the Virginia State Senate Education and Workforce Committee, Steve Martin (R- 11th District) last week to discuss more effective ways to make sure children are safe in child care.  Lafkin’s infant daughter died in a McGaheysville, VA child care program in May 2012.

“We knew a background check on any child care provider was important to us. We had a court-run check conducted.  We assumed that was thorough. We didn’t know it was only a name check and the criminal history that our provider had would not be revealed,” Lafkin told Steve Martin.

Elly and her husband, Cameron, placed their 3-month old daughter, Camden, in a family child care home after receiving positive referrals from two friends. The background check that the Lafkins conducted revealed nothing suspicious.  It only searched under the name the provider was currently using in the state of Virginia.

Child Care Aware® of America recommends a comprehensive background check, which includes a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check of the child abuse registry and a check of the sex offender registry.  “That’s why a fingerprint check is so important,” said Sara Miller, Senior Policy Advisor for Child Care Aware® of America.   “There is no way that parents can discover alias’ on their own. This really is a public safety issue.”

“Had a comprehensive  check been done, the Lafkins would have known about the previous felony convictions and likely would have selected a different child care provider,” said Miller.

“Virginia does not require fingerprint checks for child care providers – whether staff are employed in a child care center or individuals are operating a family child care home.  In the case of the Lafkins, it is unthinkable that the child care provider was known by five other names,”  said Grace Reef, Chief of Policy and Evaluation.  “The law needs to be fixed.”

Elly Lafkin is one of about 100 parents that Child Care Aware® of America is working with throughout the states to strengthen state and federal child care laws.  As the consumers of child care, parents have a loud voice to work with policymakers to better understand the reality around child care.

For more information about becoming a Parent Leader with Child Care Aware® of America, please email Sara.Miller@usa.childcareaware.org.

Child Care Aware® of America 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 all families have access to quality, affordable child care. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that improve the lives of children and families. To learn more about Child Care Aware® of America and how you can join us in ensuring access to quality child care for all families, visit us at www.usa.childcareaware.org.