Changes Made to YoungStar: Show your Support for this New Version

Changes to YoungStar
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been traveling across the state and meeting with many stakeholders about the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. In response to several child care provider concerns, they have made many updates and improvements to the system. WMELS, CSEFEL, and Strengthening Families trainings are now OPTIONAL points, CDAs have been added to the staff qualifications sections, and more options are available for programs to meet required points in every section. YoungStar is now stronger because of YOUR feedback- and it will continue to evolve as DCF responds to ideas from the field. Please review this new, updated breakdown of points by clicking here.

Take Action and Support YoungStar
Quality matters! The quality of care children receive has a huge and proven impact on their development and school-readiness. YOU can take a stand for quality by contacting your legislators in support of YoungStar, Wisconsin’s proposed QRIS. This is an opportunity to put the early education profession in its proper light, with the real story of its importance. The field is NOT all about fraud, nor is it about “babysitting” kids for money. Early education professionals are key to effective, high quality programs for Wisconsin’s young children. Please contact your state Representative and Senator TODAY and tell them to support YoungStar, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care. Either call the Legislative hotline toll free at 1-800-362-9472 or send your representatives an email message. Find out who your legislators are by clicking here and entering your home address.

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) believes YoungStar will: improve the overall quality for children in child care, provide a tool for parents to identify and select quality child care, create incentives to improve services to low-income children, link quality to Wisconsin Shares payments, and provide a mechanism to further prevent fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program. Join us in support of YoungStar and quality care for kids.

Another Public Hearing for Child Care Waiver Law

The Committee on Children and Families and Workforce Development in the Senate will be holding a public hearing on the new waiver legislation (SB 642) this Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 10:10 am in Capitol room 411 South (updated room). Last week, the Assembly Committee on Children and Families heard testimony on the same bill. Providers from across the state joined WECA at this hearing to show their support for the bill. Do you have a response to this new legislation? You can make a statement at the hearing or send Senator Jauch, the chairperson of the Committee, a written statement either in favor of or in opposition to the bill.

Representative Tamara Grigsby and Senator Kathleen Vinehout created this new waiver legislation (AB 887 and SB 642) to change the caregiver background check law, or Act 76, in a variety of ways. According to Representative Grigsby, this bill will “address the most burdensome impact of Act 76, those individuals who have lost or surrendered their licenses due to a financial based crime or public assistance fraud. This bill would allow those individuals whose crimes were committed more than 5 years prior to go through the Department of Children and Families’ rehab/review process and request consideration for reinstatement of their license.”

Public Hearing for Child Care Provider Waiver Bill

Since it was enacted in November 2009, and went into effect on February 1, Act 76 (or the caregiver background check law) has been met with mixed reactions from the child care field in Wisconsin. See our previous blog post for more information on Act 76.

Representative Tamara Grigsby, one of the original co-sponsors of the law, has created NEW waiver legislation (AB 887 and SB 642) that would change Act 76 in a variety of ways. First, it would remove permanent child care bars for providers and their non-provider residents who committed certain serious property crimes, background check violations, and public assistance fraud. These crimes would instead ban an individual from providing care for 5 years after the date of the conviction, sanction, or adjudication. Second, it would allow non-provider residents who have not been permanently barred to prove that they have been rehabilitated and/or that they are not a threat to the children receiving care at the residence. Click here to view the full waiver legislation.

The Committee on Children and Families in the Assembly will be holding a public hearing on the new waiver legislation this Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 10 am in Capitol room 415 Northwest. Do you have a response to this new legislation? You can make a statement at the hearing or send Representative Grigsby, the chairperson of the Committee, a written statement either in favor of or in opposition to the bill.

According to Representative Grigsby, this bill will “address the most burdensome impact of Act 76, those individuals who have lost or surrendered their licenses due to a financial based crime or public assistance fraud.  This bill would allow those individuals whose crimes were committed more than 5 years prior to go through the Department of Children and Families’ rehab/review process and request consideration for reinstatement of their license.”

Waiver Process in Response to Child Care Criminal Background Check Law

Since it was enacted in November 2009, Act 76 (or the caregiver background check law), has been met with mixed reactions from the child care field in Wisconsin. The bill- created to increase safety and decrease fraud within child care programs- went into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The bill includes legislation that 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime. The bill was passed unanimously in both houses.

When the bill was originally drafted, the list of crimes that would result in a permanent ban from the field was small and included first/second degree reckless or intentional homicide, kidnapping, and armed burglary. During the legislative process, several amendments were approved and additional crimes now carry a permanent ban for licensees or certified providers only. These crimes are broad and include identity theft, felony forgery, felony retail theft, and felony cable theft. As a result, some providers in the field are losing their licenses for nonviolent crimes that they committed many years ago (see article here). DCF has stated that, as of now, 31 licenses have been revoked or surrendered because of Act 76.

Representative Tamara Grigsby, one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, is currently in the process of creating waiver legislation that if passed would allow providers who are affected by Act 76 to apply for a waiver from DCF under certain circumstances (especially for financial related crimes that currently hold a permanent bar). There will hopefully be a public hearing on this legislation by the end of March. Click here to watch Representative Grigsby discuss this issue on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now series. Keep checking our blog for updates on this waiver bill.

Early Education Could Get a Federal Boost

Earlier this year, President Obama released his budget request for next year (fiscal year 2011). The President called for a ‘freeze’ of total federal discretionary spending over the next three years. Despite this freeze, he has proposed significant increases in discretionary spending on programs that impact children (a $6.12 billion increase over last year)! With this increase, the percentage of total federal discretionary money that will be spent on children’s programs would increase from 18.97% this year to 20.34% next year. Additionally, the President has proposed nearly doubling the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to help more middle class families with the rising cost of child care. Here are some of the programs that the President has requested increased spending in:

The Child Care and Development Block Grant: Total requested increase of $1.6 billion. $800 million of this is proposed to provide additional child care subsidies to working families. The other $800 million is proposed to go towards quality improvements.

Head Start/Early Head Start : Total requested increase of $989 million.

Early Learning Challenge Fund: If passed, this piece of legislation would provide nearly $9 billion over 10 years. Visit our earlier blog post for more information on this effort.

Literacy efforts: The budget request of $250 million for a comprehensive birth through high school literacy grant program which would replaced other efforts like Early Reading First and Reading First. 15% of this total would be reserved for birth to kindergarten efforts.

Child Nutrition efforts: Total requested increase of $1 billion.

Promise Neighborhoods: Total requested increase of $210 million. This effort is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, and encourages comprehensive programs for children and their families from before they are born to college age. Read our earlier blog post about this effort here.

March Forth Today for Children

March Forth!Today, on March 4th, please join thousands of advocates to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Ready to join the action?

1. Call your Members of Congress TODAY, use the script below, and dial toll-free at 1.888.460.0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

* Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (and also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc.)
* I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.

OR

2. Email your representatives by following the National Women’s Law Center link here.

Why should YOU join in?
Your members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

Fingerprints and Child Care

Federal and Wisconsin state legislators are considering bills that would require fingerprint records to be used for a variety of reasons. The federal government is considering legislation that would require child care providers across the nation to have comprehensive criminal background checks, including FBI fingerprint checks. Bills seeking such background checks (h.r. 3287 and s.2903) were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in July and December 2009. The House bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee, WI) and the Senate bill was authored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). At present, criminal background check requirements for child care providers vary greatly across the nation. Only ten states require comprehensive background checks of providers like those mentioned in the bills. 30 states currently conduct a state fingerprint check (25 of these conduct both a federal and state fingerprint check)- Wisconsin is not one of them.

In Wisconsin, legislation was recently introduced that would require child care programs that receive Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy funding to track children’s attendance using fingerprinting technology. Co-authored by Representative Honadel and Senator Darling, these bills- SB 592 and AB 845– hope to curb fraud in the Wisconsin Shares system and ensure that accurate child care attendance is reported to the state. Programs would be required to implement a biometric fingerprint identification system by January 1, 2011 and would need to pay for the equipment (estimated at $400 or $500) themselves. The state would cover the cost of needed software.

YoungStar to be Announced in Janesville and Beloit

YoungStar

Copyright Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Next Monday, February 1st, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) invites YOU to join them at a special announcement for Wisconsin’s proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System, YoungStar. Two events will take place- one in Janesville and one in Beloit- and each will feature DCF Secretary Reggie Bicha.

Join State Representative and Speaker of the House Mike Sheridan along with DCF at the 10:30 am Janesville event at KinderCare, 3327 East Milwaukee Street, Janesville. The Beloit event will take place at 2:30 pm at the Child and Family Head Start Center, 1221 Henry Avenue, Beloit.

If you are planning on attending either event, please email an RSVP to Julie E. Schultz at juliee.schultz@wisconsin.gov. Come one, come all!

Caregiver Background Check Law to go Into Effect

In November 2009, the Caregiver Background Check Bill (SB331), was signed into law by Governor Doyle. The bill- created to increase safety and decrease fraud within child care programs- will go into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The bill includes legislation that 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime.

All Wisconsin licensed child care programs recently received a letter from the Bureau of Early Care Regulation outlining some of these specific changes. The state will perform background checks on license holders every 3 months (licensees will be charged $10 per check), on licensee household member once per year, and on employees of licensees once per year. Licensees will be notified when they need to pay for these checks. Additionally, if licensees, their household members, or their employees are convicted of certain crimes, they will be permanently banned from providing child care in the future. Examples of these crimes include first/second degree reckless or intentional homicide, kidnapping, and armed burglary. Additional crimes carry a permanent ban for licensees or certified providers only. These crimes are broad and include identity theft, felony forgery, felony retail theft, and felony cable theft. A complete listing of these crimes were included in the letter from the Bureau of Early Care Regulation.

Federal Bill to Expand and Improve Child Care Nutrition Programs

Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill that would strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act of 2009 (S. 2749) includes changes to nutrition programs for young children in child care centers, family child care programs, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Specifically the bill includes 1) increased reimbursement rates to participating providers to cover the cost of healthy food, 2) expanded eligibility guidelines to serve more low-income children, 3) that addition of a third meal or snack option for providers to claim, and 4) improved program and paperwork requirements for providers, sponsoring programs, state agencies, and parents. A bill like this can reduce childhood hunger and obesity, especially for children from low-income families.

If you are in favor of these changes, please contact Senator Herb Kohl and Senator Russ Feingold TODAY to tell them that you support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act (Senate Bill 2749). You can find out how to contact Senators Kohl and Feingold by clicking here and entering your mailing address.

Sample message to your representative:
My name is ___ and I am one of your constituents. I urge you to support the Access to Nutritious Meals for Young Children Act, or Senate Bill 2749. This bill is a critical investment that can improve young children’s access to nutritious food while in child care programs. This bill also aims to lower childhood obesity, especially for children from low-income families.

Specifically, I am in favor of expanded eligibility guidelines to serve more low-income children, increased reimbursement rates to providers to cover the cost of healthy food, and adding a third meal or snack option for providers to claim.