Out-of-Home Care: Is it Quantity or Quality?
The rap against Florida from a national perspective is that, historically, the state focuses more on quantity and access rather than research-based quality in the areas of child care and voluntary pre-kindergarten. This policy path is peppered throughout. From legislative funding being tied to more slots at low rates instead of providing for credentialed teachers and staff, its apparent lack of commitment to meeting nationally accepted early learning benchmarks and its weak licensing standards have too broad exemptions as compared to many states.
Quality of child care begins with ensuring that well-trained and appropriately paid professionals care for and educate young children using an enriching curriculum in an equally stimulating environment. In Florida, only 26% of center-based child care programs and 8% of family child care homes are nationally accredited. Accreditation takes into account quality based standards that according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “allows programs to provide the best learning experiences for young children and their educators.”
Florida offers a free voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) program for children who are four-years-old and residents of Florida. It is one of the largest pre-k programs in the country. Unfortunately, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Florida’s pre-K system only meets three of ten quality benchmarks, reflecting its reluctance to require a degreed teacher in every pre-k classroom.
Regarding afterschool programs, due to the high number of dual working parents, children need settings that are safe and developmentally appropriate. Although Florida is among the top ten states for access to afterschool programs, there has been multiple legislative attempts by some provider groups to relax licensing standards if only due to the age of the child. Programs that provide care to children out of their parents’ care must be held to the highest expectations.
- Invest in Quality, Not Quantity: An immediate change in policy is needed that moves toward investing in quality rather than quantity for out-of-home care and early learning funding.
- Continue current licensing standards and health and safety regulations: Ensure children are kept healthy and safe when out of parents’ care.
- Require evidence-based and best practice research standards: Child care and afterschool programs need funding for higher quality and pilot programs that can be tested in small markets.
- Utilize core quality components: Require degreed teachers, appropriate class sizes and improved student-to-teacher ratios in order to increase quality of Florida VPK program.
- Create child-centered systems of care that tie in to early education programs: Establish a child-centered approach to delivering key services (e.g., medical, dental, behavioral, early care and learning, food security and nutrition) in a “one stop shop” to improve access, program quality and service delivery. This approach will create access to quality care and education for children, support families and improve quality of life and economic opportunities in their communities.
What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…
- The State of Preschool 2015—National Institute for Early Education Research
Florida’s pre-K program is among the best in the country for access, yet is in the lowest for quality components and funding.
- Afterschool Fostering Student Success in Florida—Afterschool Alliance
Afterschool programs are keeping students safe, inspiring them to learn and supporting Florida’s working families. Yet 541,481 school-age children (19 percent) in Florida are alone and unsupervised during the hours after school. More than a decade of research confirms that quality afterschool programs are providing rich learning experiences for students, helping to narrow existing opportunity and achievement gaps and positioning students toward a bright future as they move through school, career and life.
- A New “Early Years” Model for Solving Florida’s Silent Crisis—Voices for Florida
The current underinvestment in the developmental needs of Florida’s children – and lack of recognition of its lifelong impact on families and Florida’s economic opportunity – has created a silent crisis. This “silent crisis” can be solved by investing in early education, supporting innovative high quality programs, integrating important developmental services and creating access to full service child care for all Floridians.
Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.