Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan fails to ensure that kids attending licensed child care are safe, making it harder for working parents to find reliable care, a new policy brief from the Michigan League for Public Policy concludes.
The lack of oversight stems from the high caseloads for state child care inspectors — triple the recommended ratio of 1 worker for every 50 child care programs. Michigan would need to add 140 workers to the 70 now employed to meet that recommended staffing level.
“Ensuring the health and safety of our youngest children should be top priority on everyone’s agenda. Not only do working families need the security, employers do, too,’’ said League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. “As the next budget is put together, it’s important that child care safety be strengthened. Kids, parents and employers all have a stake in this.”
Projected revenue is down, making it harder for the administration and lawmakers to beef up staffing as needed. Some in the Legislature have discussed reducing revenues even more by rolling back the state income tax or giving more corporate tax breaks, further jeopardizing the state’s ability to oversee safety and health regulations.
Recent unannounced federal audits found all providers who were checked failed to comply with one or more state health and safety licensing requirements, including background checks of workers. And two national studies gave poor grades — an F and a D — to Michigan’s oversight.
Michigan falls far short in meeting the recommended quarterly unannounced visits to child care centers, and child care homes.
Child care centers and group homes (up to 12 children with two providers) are inspected only every two years at renewal of the licenses. Interim inspections in the off-years are spotty. For family child care homes (up to six children) inspections may be as far apart as six years.
“It’s important for lawmakers to realize that they are letting down the youngest residents of the state when we don’t have the resources to make sure kids are in safe and healthy conditions,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of Kids Count in Michigan Project at the League. “This is one of the most critical responsibilities of our elected officials, and it’s very clear they need to do a better job.’’
The report, State’s Failure to Guarantee Child Safety Places Children at Risk, can be found online at www.mlpp.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonpartisan policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.