AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Advocacy groups and lawmakers are pushing for improvements in licensed and regulated child care facilities across the state of Texas.
Dr. Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of the organization Children at Risk, said there are 7.2 million under the age of 18 in Texas and about one million are in childcare settings.
“This is a time when children are giant sponges and soaking up everything they can,” Sanborn said at a press conference at the Texas Capitol Tuesday.
It’s a critical time period for brain development, he said.
“When children are going to a child care or early education center, when they are learning a lot, it’s also very important,” he said.
Sanborn said statistics show only 11 percent of the 15,000 childcare providers in the state are certified as meeting quality standards. Legislators have filed several bills aimed at strengthening child care and quality standards.
“The number of incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of a child at child care facilities and homes is alarming,” said Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
Huffman has filed Senate Bill 568, which would allow for administrative fines collected to be deposited into a “Safety Training Account” and used for creating safety training materials. The bill would also:
- establish safe sleeping standards
- require relevant inspection information to be posted for a minimum of five years
- require license or registration holders to maintain liability insurance coverage
- enhance the child care license renewal process
- let parents or guardians know of certain incidents
- Create new fines. Senate Bill 569 would require inspections of listed family homes at least once every three years, as well as require them to undergo background and criminal history checks.
“These two bills provide child care licensing with more tools and resources to work towards preventing and hopefully, eliminating these severe incidents,” Huffman said.
House Bill 1682 would compile data about the child to adult supervisor ratios.
“This survey will help determine if the ratio is appropriate and thereby giving needed data to make adjustments in future sessions in the legislature,” said Rep. John Raney, R-College Station.
Another bill highlighted during the press conference was Senate Bill 952 filed by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, which would mandate child care centers to meet the minimum standards of the Child and Adult Care Food Program for meals.
These facilities would also have to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for physical activity and screen time. Watson also has another piece of legislation that would collect data on how the state allocates federal dollars on child care and provide guidelines on obtaining input from the Texas Education Agency, school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, subsidized child care providers, businesses and members of the public on improving coordination between the subsidized child care program and pre-K.
Watson said: “My goal has been to improve the quality and safety of regulated child care without making it more expensive.”