HARRISBURG, Pa., April 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Human Services (DHS) has taken immediate action in response to a soon to be released audit of child care providers in Pennsylvania by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS OIG). The audit reviewed several Pennsylvania family child care facilities to ensure they were in compliance with state requirements related to the safety and health of children. The audit found that many providers failed to meet State standards. Fieldwork for the audit occurred from April 21 through June 13, 2014, and the audit will be formally released in the coming weeks.
"The audit findings show unacceptable conditions at several child care facilities across the Commonwealth, and provides another example of the importance of choosing high-quality child care," said Acting Secretary Ted Dallas. "While the Department has moved quickly to address the findings in the draft audit report, we also urge parents to learn about the Keystone STARS program when choosing a child care provider."
Specifically, DHS has already taken the following steps to address the audit findings:
- Conducted follow-up facility investigations and ensured all the violations have been corrected;
- Revoked the license for one provider and is in the process of revoking the license for another;
- Hired 11 additional inspectors in September 2014 and initiated a process to hire an additional 40 inspectors in March 2015. These additional hires will support monitoring of regulated child care facilities, including family child care homes, at 100%;
- Purchased mobile devices and is making other technology upgrades that will allow staff to spend more time in the field. This will ensure that more staff time is spent on licensing activities instead of in transit back to specific office locations to complete paperwork;
- Began drafting statutory and regulatory language that will meet requirements imposed by the recently reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Under the new CCDBG rules, all family child care homes in Pennsylvania must be subject to pre-service inspections and at least one unannounced annual inspection. Legislative language is currently in final development and will be championed as a legislative priority of DHS with the General Assembly; and
- Made technical assistance available to the providers to assist them in maintaining compliance with health and safety regulations.
Keystone STARS is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to improve, support, and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. The performance standards provide the foundation for the program and are grouped into four levels: STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3, and STAR 4. Each level builds on the previous level and utilizes research-based best practices to promote quality early learning environments and positive child outcomes. The standards address staff qualifications and professional development, the early learning program, partnerships with family and community, and leadership and management.
"The Governor's budget makes a substantial investment in quality programs for Pennsylvania's children," stated Dallas. "Additional funding proposed by the Governor will help increase the number of high-quality child care providers in Pennsylvania and improve monitoring of all facilities. We are committed to ensuring that these issues are permanently corrected and that the state is not put in this position again."
Governor Wolf's budget proposal for fiscal year 2015-16 includes the investment of federal funds to increase the daily "add-on" rates to quality providers receiving child care subsidies including:
- $11.4 million for STARS 3 and 4 programs. These proposed funds will help close the gap between the state subsidy reimbursement and the true cost of providing quality care. It will also incentivize providers at lower STARS levels to move to STARS 3 and 4.
- $2 million to establish infant/toddler add-on rates for STARS 2, 3, and 4 providers. Providing infant/toddler care comes with higher costs, due to more stringent staff to child ratios and the need for additional equipment, including cribs. The initiative recognizes these higher costs and will help more providers to offer high-quality care to our youngest children.
"We would like to thank the HHS OIG for the professionalism and thoroughness of their audit report. It has helped identify where the Department must improve and will allow us to better serve Pennsylvania's children," said Dallas.
There are 5,500 licensed child care facilities and 2,700 registered facilities across the state. Licensing of these facilities is the responsibility of OCDEL within DHS.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kait Gillis, 717-425-7606
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Human Services