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

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:

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:

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:

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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