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Office of Child Care webinar highlights right-sizing child care licensing requirements to expand school-age accessibility

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Office of Child Care webinar highlights right-sizing child care licensing requirements to expand school-age accessibility

A small but growing number of states have effective systems for child care licensing and accessing subsidy funds that include requirements, supports, and even whole sets of policies specific to school-age programs. On September 14, the National Center of Afterschool and Summer Enrichment hosted a webinar, “Addressing School-Age Needs in Licensing Regulations,” based off their recent policy brief on key considerations in this area.

Work on these regulations now is especially timely. Forty-five percent of children nationwide served by Child Care Development Block Grant funds are school-aged and states have $15 billion in supplemental funds to obligate until next year, which can be used to support licensing school-age programs. Per the ACF Supplemental Fund Guidance – 6-11-2021:

“Some lead agencies do not license all types of child care, including small family child care homes and school-age programs in school facilities. These programs may be high quality and play a critical role in meeting the needs of working families. Lead agencies should ensure that any legally-operating license-exempt programs are supported to meet health and safety and quality standards and are encouraged to expand licensing opportunities with the supplemental funds.”

The webinar highlighted a number of actions states could take to support school-age including:

  • Helping Licensors understand what safe, quality, school-age environments look like
  • Ensuring staff pre-service credentials are inclusive of school-age related credentials and degrees
  • Offering on-going staff development and training on school-age topics
  • Considering the opportunity of engaging under 18 staff in school-age programs for cross-age peer mentoring, and also potential staff pipeline benefits
  • Promoting developmentally-appropriate curricula and programming for school-age children
  • Recognizing needs for school-age focused training and PD by trainers with school-age expertise

Also highlighted were two state examples from Arkansas and Oregon:

Arkansas’s speakers, Woodie Sure Herlein, the Out of School Time Program Coordinator, Childhood Services, Arkansas State University, and Onika Luster, Program Manager at the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education in the Arkansas Department of Human Resources discussed the benefits licensing has had for their state in being able to understand more of the landscape of care provided to school-age youth. Some of their key ideas included:

  • Arkansas passed their school-age, out-of-school time rules in 2014 which went into effect in 2015
  • The state agency works in close partnership with their state university and their statewide afterschool network
  • The rules work was supported by a Governor’s Task Force on Afterschool and Summer programs – which recommended licensing requirements for the unique needs of afterschool programs including more attention to school-age youth development practices
  • Some particular areas of attention for school-age included director, staff, and volunteer qualifications, school-age ratios and group sizes, programming, outdoor time, and screen time, and behavior guidance and inclusion practices. Out-of-school time practices, in contrast to just center-based environment requirements, also allowed more focus on relationships and community building.

Oregon’s speakers included Alicia Gardiner, Office of Child Care Director Early Learning Division, Oregon Department of Education and Beth Unverzagt, Director, OregonASK. A major goal of the state was to create a manageable pathway to licensing for school-age programs to allow more families to be served with their subsidy program. Some key elements of their conversation included:

  • Most of Oregon’s school-age child care programs operate in public schools, including in a large number in rural areas
  • The state went through a revisioning process with all its rule sets, including school-age rules
  • The school-age rule set was prompted by factors including high demand from the school-age community for consistent, easy-to-follow rules that minimized unnecessary barriers and legislation HB 3073 in 2021 for the agency to adopt school-age rules
  • The agency convened workgroups ahead of an advisory group to understand barriers for school-age programs. Key topics for providers included: staff qualifications and the challenges for providers operating in public schools and those that only operate for part of the day.
  • For settings in public schools the rules had flexibility for playgrounds, fire marshal inspections, immunizations, sinks and bathrooms, and fences, and planning and zoning, which were all allowed to align with public school requirements
  • The state will provide six months to integrate the new rules for training, communication and implementation, and the statewide afterschool network is meeting at least once a month with the agency to help prepare for the updates

During the question and answer period, Arkansas was asked what benefits it felt might have come from establishing their out-of-school time regulations. The administrators mentioned that licensing was a foundation for the state’s quality system and as such they were able to engage more school-age programs in a continuous improvement process, including use of the Youth Program Quality Assessment tools (YPQA) and specific targeted professional development and technical assistance at times that worked for the needs of school-age providers. They were also able to more readily support these programs in their efforts with the COVID relief funds and as a result saw school-age programs that were able to expand services to meet growing demand. The panelists were also asked how their health and safety requirements were employed for school-age providers. The panelists responded that they looked carefully at their available standards to see which were relevant to school-age. They then were able to take out requirements specific to infants and toddlers, and to add in additional developmentally appropriate policies for older children such as older youth being able to go to the bathrooms and transition in hallways without adults.

Presenters also reminded the audience that they were continuing to learn from other states and continuously improving their programs. They also felt the process to develop the licensing does take commitment and time to engage a very broad range stakeholders, both in the development of the rules and the feedback process as well as continued communication with the field. Even while some issues can be more complicated than others, the overall result was extremely worthwhile.  

For more information and resources on how quality afterschool and summer programs can be supported through the Child Care Development Fund, see our school-age care resource page.

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BY: Erik Peterson      04/05/22

Governors across the country signal support for afterschool in state budget requests

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BY: Chris Neitzey      02/11/22

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BY: Jillian Luchner      12/07/21

State child care stabilization grants open with many afterschool programs eligible

As the afterschool field continues to navigate the American Rescue Plan (ARP) opportunities for K-12 funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) at the state and local level, ARP also designated $24 billion in child care funding to states to help stabilize the...

BY: Jillian Luchner      11/18/21