Inspections of child care centers in dispute

By Scott Rothschild

March 17, 2009 /

Private agencies that provide foster care and other youth services want to exempt themselves from state inspections, saying they already must abide by rigorous accreditation standards.

But the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with some child care facilities, are opposing the move.

The dispute is over House Bill 2356, which would exempt maternity centers and child care facilities from being inspected by KDHE if the center or facility is accredited by The Joint Commission; the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services Inc.; or the Commission of Rehabilitation Services.

A second hearing day on the measure is scheduled for Wednesday before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

In earlier testimony, a number of private organizations that contract with the state for family preservation, foster care and adoption services supported the bill.

The private sector accreditation agencies have stringent requirements and review processes that ensure the safety and quality of care, they argued. Relying on accreditation would remove costly regulatory duplication, they said.

“We believe the changes in House Bill 2356 maintain high safety standards to ensure safety for children through accreditation and contract, but without unnecessary duplication that may deter families from volunteering,” said Robin Clements, who represents The Child Welfare Companies, a consortium of companies with state contracts for foster care and other youth services.

But KDHE argued against the bill.

Richard Morrissey, interim director of the Division of Health for KDHE, said the legislation needed more research and vetting.

“A blanket removal of the department’s authority to inspect would significantly reduce existing safeguards and consumer protection for Kansas children and families. Research clearly associates frequency of inspection with increased compliance,” Morrissey said.

And several child care centers opposed the measure

Deb Crowl, president of the Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children, and administrator of Emporia Child Care, said having KDHE inspections was important “Why not have that second pair of eyes ensuring the safety and well-being of each child that is in that environment. The purpose of regulation is to protect children from harm,” she said.


Please keep the inspections

It is interesting to see this debate happening in Kansas of all places. Kansas is one of the few states where licensing is performed by another department than the one responisble for foster care. Licensing is done through the Department of Health and Environment, while the Department for Social and Rehabilitative Services is responsible for foster care and child protective services.

I think this separation of authority is important to guarentee checks and balances. Obviously several private care organizations don't seem to agree with this, but I believe it is vital to do so. Organizations like the Council on Accreditation is not independent. It has members from child placement organizations and adoption advocacy organizations in its board. As a result accreditation is almost like a peer-review, instead of an authoritative investigation into the workings of an organization.

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