Connecticut day cares fall short of state rules

A study led by Yale School of Nursing Professor Angela Crowley has revealed that Connecticut child care centers and family day care homes are not complying with state health and safety regulations.

The study, which analyzed the results of 1,422 random inspections conducted from 2006 to 2008 by the Connecticut Department of Public Health Licensing Specialists, showed that 48 percent of Connecticut child care centers, which care for 13 or more children, had playground hazards, and 43 percent of family day care homes, which care for 12 or fewer children, did not have up-to-date health forms for their children.

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Crowley said the study is the first comprehensive analysis of health and safety compliance for child care centers and family day care homes carried out in the state.

“School readiness initiatives both nationally and in Connecticut focus largely on cognitive development and school readiness in terms of achievement,” Crowley said. “But less emphasis is placed on children’s health status and the health and safety of programs, which contribute to children’s participation in early care and readiness to learn.”

Connecticut has no system for reporting inspection data, Crowley said. Reports are still filed on paper and are not put into an electronic database, she said. In addition, Connecticut inspects child care centers and family day care homes less often than other states. Connecticut ranks 41st of 50 states in terms of the frequency of unannounced inspections for child day care centers, and 31st of 45 states for family day care homes.

While the child care centers and family day care homes met most regulations, some of the regulations that were not followed could lead to severe consequences for children with special health concerns such as asthma or allergies, Crowley said. Forty-one percent of medications were administered without written approval from a doctor, she said.

Lapses in compliance can lead to higher rates of illness among children in child care centers and family day care homes, Crowley said. Children not in care programs are two to three times less likely to get sick, she said. She estimated that parents miss an average of one to four weeks of work a year due to their children’s illnesses or injuries in child care settings. Nationally, about 60 percent of children under age six have mothers in the workforce.

Crowley said higher rates of compliance could be obtained with continued educational training, on-site health consultants, more frequent inspections and an electronic database for inspection findings.

Crowley and co-author Marjorie Rosenthal, a researcher at the School of Medicine, presented their findings at a forum held Dec. 8 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. At the panel, State Rep. Beth Bye, a proponent of quality child care in Connecticut, said there was a need for the inspection process to be more consistent. But she warned about adding too many new regulations to the almost 200 already in place.

Two nationally recognized speakers, Shannon Rudisill, associate director of the Child Care Bureau for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, remarked that the study was nationally significant because of the general lack of data on child care safety and regulations.

The study was funded by the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, a public foundation focused on developing comprehensive, effective, community-based health and mental health care systems for children and their families.

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