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News - World Headlines

No Inspections Done to Check on Safety of Home-based ECE Providers

Home-providers of ECE are irregularly inspected.  What is happening in Iowa is not uncommon in other countries. 

Sioux City, August 2012 - The lack of inspections has raised red flags at the state and national level concerning the quality of Iowa’s in-home child care industry.

Bethany Marcoe mailed off documents to the Iowa Department of Human Services proving she had completed first aid and CPR training and passed a state background test. Then, she immediately started caring for other people's children.

There were no inspections to check for safety problems before she opened Marcoe Polo Playhouse, a registered childcare centre, in her Sioux City home nearly a decade ago. There was none for years afterward, either.

As a businesswoman, Marcoe said she was surprised at the lack of state oversight. As a parent, she found it disheartening.

“They never actually came out to my home to inspect me. They just asked me to sign a piece of paper,” Marcoe said. “It was so simple, I thought it was kind of odd.

“Last October, the Department of Human Services did their first inspection. Eight and a half years later -- after I had already provided childcare -- someone from the state came and ran me through their checklist.”

Marcoe's operation is supposed to be inspected once every two years according to state guidelines, but the Department of Human Services has historically inspected about 20 percent of home providers each year.

In-home facilities are private businesses that operate out of an owner’s house.

Those facilities are handled differently than the state's 1,400 licensed day care centres, which go through a more rigorous permitting process and are inspected annually by a dedicated staff of about 12 consultants.

In-home providers are classified as either registered or nonregistered facilities.

Registered home providers must meet annual training requirements, agree to unannounced inspections, pass a state background check and maintain proper business records. A federal background check is not required in Iowa.

Non-registered homes are not regulated as long as they have fewer than six children and the caregivers are 18 or older. They are inspected only if someone files a complaint against them.

Inspections are used to ensure a provider does not have more children than he or she is supposed to. Inspections also check for proper safety protocols such as ensuring that electrical outlets are covered, medications are secured, pools are covered, yards are fenced off and play equipment is safe.

According to Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral, there are 4,588 registered in-home providers and at least 4,649 nonregistered providers in the state. Woodbury County has 188 registered and at least 217 nonregistered homes.

The exact number of nonregistered providers is not known since those facilities are not monitored by the state. Those that are known often sign up to collect state childcare assistance for low income parents.

Lax inspection practices are part of the reason Iowa ranks 43rd in a 2012 national in-home childcare quality study, according to ChildCare Aware of America, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia. Iowa scored a zero on the survey for not inspecting facilities before they open. The study included Washington, D.C., and the Department of Defence.

Seven other states also don’t require inspections before opening. Michigan ranked the highest of those states in the survey, placing 37th. West Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Montana are the other six.

Oklahoma ranked first in quality. Oklahoma regulates all in-home childcare providers regardless of the number of children they watch and inspects all in-home facilities before they open. Providers are also inspected three times a year.

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