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Editorial: Raise childcare standards

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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Creative World Child Development Center, a 4-year-old childcare center and preschool, 2717 Northgate Drive, will voluntarily close on July 12, according to a report from the Iowa Department of Health Services. The state recommended voluntary closure after an unannounced inspection last week reportedly uncovered numerous code violations.

The center first received a license to operate in 2009 and was most recently caring for around 50 children ages from under 1 to 5. However, the center had its license restricted to provisional status by the state last year, reportedly because of a large number of citations.

This year, the state inspector found a number of violations including inadequate food-safety measures, an insufficient staff-to-child ratio, and generally unsanitary facilities.

The situation involving Creative World illustrates that the state needs to take stronger steps to ensure the quality of its childcare facilities.

Currently, in addition to the minimum standards of health and safety, the state has a five-point scale for determining the relative quality of childcare providers — 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.

According to the Iowa Child Care Quality Rating System, Level 1 requires that a provider meet only the minimum requirements to secure a full license and remain operational. Providers with a Level 1 standard may also have a provisional license.

Only providers with full licenses can qualify to be of a Level 2 standard; however, there are many other differences between a Level 1 facility and a Level 2 facility.

Some of the requirements for a Level 2 facility include: participation in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (if eligible); having at least one staff member present who has completed mandatory reporting of child abuse, universal precautions, and infectious-disease control, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and first aid in each room; basic orientation for all staff prior to beginning work; director and staff perform self-assessments of each individual's skills and one of the center overall.

Given the requirements for a Level 2 facility, it is evident that the minimum Level 1 standard lacks significantly in quality compared with a Level 2 standard, let alone Levels 3, 4, or 5.

To be granted a license to operate a daycare, for example, the state doesn’t require that children be supervised at all times by a caregiver trained in CPR.

The state should tighten the minimum requirements for its daycare centers. Childcare facilities should have to meet far stricter personnel and safety requirements because children deserve to be in a safe environment.

A 2012 report by Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral outlining the quality and cost of Johnson County’s childcare centers states that the organization referred 507 families with 715 children to childcare providers last year.

That number doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that 66 percent of families in the county are families with all parents working and children under the age of 6. In fact, the highest percent of requests for childcare is for infants.

And childcare does not come cheap.

According to the report, 70 percent of all childcare programs in the county listed with the organization are at Human-Services-licensed centers. The average weekly cost of keeping an infant at such a licensed center is $201.20. A family earning the median income of $74,547 with an infant child would pay 14 percent of their income (before taxes) to have their child in childcare.

But what is the quality of the childcare facility that such a family would place their child in?

At Creative World, where the monthly cost for a child under 1 to 23 months is $940, conditions were founds to be sufficiently unsafe to merit shutting the place down.

Still, there are many other childcare centers that are allowed to operate because they meet the state’s minimum standard. However, that standard is not a guarantee of safety. The state’s minimum standard needs to be much higher.


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