Giving our Children a Chance

Codie

During President Obama’s State of the Union address, the President shared his vision for strengthening early learning throughout America. “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” he said. “ In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.  So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.” The Strong Start for Children campaign is working with advocates across the country to support Early Learning Day of Action on June 5th.

As a part of the Strong Start for Children campaign, we are excited to support an expansion of Early Head Start to more communities and more children.  The research is clear – the first years of a child’s life are critical for their development. Children who have a high-quality prekindergarten experience are more likely to do well in school and find better jobs.  One of our parent leaders knows firsthand how much quality education can make a difference early on.

Codie Warner, a Child Care Aware® of America Parent Leader, is very excited as well. As a Head Start child herself, she is a huge advocate for the program. She was able to enroll her children in Early Head Start and sees the impact the program is making. Not only are her children learning daily, her daughter is also able to receive occupational therapy and other services to support her healthy development.

Since 1965, nearly 30 million low-income children and families have been a part of Head Start services. We are thrilled to see the priority placed on quality early childhood settings for children beginning at birth.  Too many children today do not have access to quality child care. State laws vary greatly, not just with regard to state preschool initiatives but also with regard to state child care programs and the training and education of the early childhood workforce. The President’s plan will challenge states and communities to do their best for children so that children can do their best when they enter school.

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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.

Eleven Parents Represent Local Families at National Policy Symposium

Parents will meet with policymakers on Capitol Hill to voice concerns and advocate for quality child care during Child Care Aware® of America’s National Policy Symposium

ARLINGTON, Va.,– Eleven parents from across the country were chosen to represent local families at the National Child Care Policy Symposium hosted by Child Care Aware® of America, which will be held April 10-13, in Washington, D.C. At the Policy Symposium, parents will have the opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to share child care concerns and advocate for affordable, quality child care for all children.

“We are thrilled to have eleven parents from nine different states attend our Policy Symposium,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America. “By attending the Symposium and voicing their concerns, they are educating Members of Congress who have the ability to strengthen the quality of child care.”

Parents attending this year’s Parents @ Symposium program represent nine states including California, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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 about Child Care Aware® of America’s policy Symposium, please click here or contact Tracey Schaefer at 703-341-4148, 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.

Building a Framework for Early Learning: Delaware

This past weekend, members of the Public Policy team at Child Care Aware® of America hopped in the car and drove to Newark, Delaware for a day-long training “Building a Framework for Early Learning.” Delaware was given this opportunity to spend a day learning about federal and state child care laws as well as different advocacy tools and ways to help strengthen child care in their state following an application for “Taking Advocacy to the Next Level.” They were selected, along with four other states, to receive training this past year.

Upon arrival, the members of the team were greeted by a group representing a wide variety of people in the early childhood field in the state. Members arrived from non-profit organizations, for-profit child care centers, family child care home providers, child care advocates, early childhood instructors and more. There was a voice from every sector in the room.  The morning started off with a brief overview of early childhood in Delaware, what plans were in the works (including new recommendations by the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council).   Following the state background, there was an overview of federal funding and an update from the national level. There was a review of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the federal law that allocates funds to states and sets the parameters for state child care laws and discussion about what Congress is doing in terms of reauthorization (the process of reviewing and renewing the law).

After the federal update, participants divided into small breakout groups to discuss opportunities and barriers in the state with regard to ensuring the children in Delaware are in affordable, quality child care. There were many rich discussions, which would be used later in the day to help participants create a policy agenda and roadmap for quality child care that works best in the state of Delaware.

The afternoon was full of new ideas regarding parent engagement, advocacy tools including social media, online action centers and how to locate resources on the Child Care Aware® of America website. There was great discussion about how to implement these tools and how to determine what platforms are best for different organizations (and audiences).

The day wrapped up with more discussion groups and a basic outline of what the state would like to see in creating a roadmap for quality care for Delaware’s children.  It was a great way for individuals from a diverse array of organizations and walks in life to come together and make their voices heard on behalf of young children.

If you would like your state to be a part of a two-day quality child care advocacy training, you can learn more here and apply today!

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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.