Improving Child Care in New York

June 22, 2006

Many families use child care while theyíre at work. Nationally, more than five million infants and toddlers are cared for by others. In New York State, an estimated 3.7 million children are under 14 and two-thirds of children under 18 live with working parents, according to the National Child Care Information Center.

We depend on child care providers, and the system must run well to keep our children safe and to keep our economy running. The Assemblyís five-bill package, which I voted for, strengthens guidelines for these businesses.

The legislation improves community relations between the Office of Children and Family Services and child care providers by creating a volunteer 16-member advisory council of child care providers (A.11130-A). This panel will:

  • identify and review child care issues, state policies and programs which directly or indirectly affect child care, and recommend the adoption of new, or the modification of existing, policies and programs;
  • recommend ways to ensure child protection in day care;
  • advise the Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner on ways to promote the financial, business and training requirements of providing child day care;
  • recommend changes to data day care providers use; and
  • recommend improvements to the child day care subsidy system.

A second bill protects the location of child care providers online by giving the provider the option to decide whether or not the Office of Family Services puts the address on the Internet (A.11131-B), and a third requires the Office of Children and Family Services to study the recruitment and retention of child care providers (A.11133-A).

The state needs to know what day care choices working parents have. The recruitment and retention bill mandates a status report on whatís available and also funds the development of family day care homes for low-income families. As a result, we can assess the supply and demand for child day care, including subsidized child day care slots; determine staff turnover rate and rationale for leaving the business; find out the number of unlicensed providers and the quality of care they provide; and recommend steps to increase retention and recruitment of child day care providers.

We also passed a measure requiring the Office of Children and Family Services to study the availability, accessibility and affordability of insurance policies for child care providers

(A. 11134-A). Child care providers discussed insurance at a roundtable last fall and this bill gives us a chance to take a good look at what the market provides and whatís needed.

A fifth measure targets local social service reimbursement practices, which have been historically lax. Child care providers can wait months to get paid for their work. Under this legislation, social service agencies must pay child care providers within 30 days after getting a bill, notify the provider within 15 days of any discrepancies, pay interest if the reimbursement is late and provide a written notice within 10 days when canceling payment (A.11572).

The subsidies help provide child care to working families who otherwise couldnít afford the help. By ensuring that child care workers are paid on time, parents arenít in danger of losing this needed care.

Strengthening Shaken Baby Syndrome penalties and reinforcing Amber Alert procedures

In addition to keeping our children safer by tightening guidelines for our child care provider network, we canít ignore the terrible consequences of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), which can kill a child, cause irreparable brain damage and leave a helpless baby disabled forever.

To help end this senseless abuse, I sponsored legislation that now awaits the governorís signature, making reckless assault causing brain injury to a child under age 5 a Class D felony instead of a misdemeanor, carrying up to a 7-year prison sentence (A.10539).

Too many children have needlessly died because of this cruel behavior. Itís time to harshly punish those who commit this crime. The legislation, called Cynthiaís Law after 8-month-old Cynthia Gibbs who died from a brain injury at the hands of her babysitter, also creates a Shaken Baby Syndrome public education campaign to help prevent future tragedies.

In an effort to help combat the incidences of SBS through education and awareness to high school students, legislation I authored and is waiting the governorís signature (A.6832), would encourage SBS education as a part of the parenting skills curriculum. Educating these students about SBS prevention makes sense because, apart from being potential future parents, many of these students babysit or help care for young children after school and on weekends. Furthermore, showing a video in secondary schools ensures that "males in the household," other than fathers, receive education about SBS prevention.

We must continue to keep our children safe. Thatís why I authored the law that brought the Amber Alert Plan, an early warning system to help find abducted children, to New York State (Ch. 375 of 2002); sponsored a law allowing information about a missing child to be sent to Internet and mobile service providers (Ch. 381 of 2004); and introduced bipartisan legislation to improve Amber Alert by requiring the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to work with local governments and law enforcement so every jurisdiction in New York has a fully operational Amber Alert Plan (Ch. 348 of 2005).

Working to protect our children is our utmost promise.