Signed into law May 27, 2010, by Gov. Mark Parkinson, Lexie’s Law is the result of the efforts of Bryan and Kim Engelman and Steve and Alecia Patrick. Their daughters died as a result of injuries while in the care of home-based child care providers in Johnson County. Lexie Engelman was 13 months old in 2004 when she died after being pinned between a support beam and a playpen. Ava Patrick was 18 months old in 2009 when she was strangled on a fence separating babies from toddlers.
Key elements of the bill as well as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s progress with implementation follows:
• Requires the Department to inspect all child care facilities and eliminates the category of Registered Family Day Care Home effective June 30, 2011; requires the transition of existing Registered homes to Licensed Day Care Homes. At the time Lexie’s Law passed, there were approximately 2,500 Registered Family Day Care Homes. As of July 1, 2011, all Registered providers transitioned to licensed or closed voluntarily. We have a greater capacity to serve children in our state than we have had since 2005.
• A requirement to increase licensing fees to fund the additional inspections. Effective September 1, 2010, the state license application fee for day care homes and child care centers increased to $75 plus $1 per child in the license capacity. The previous fee for day care homes was $15, and the fee for child care centers was $35 plus $1 per child in the license capacity to a maximum of $75.
• A requirement that the Department, through the rules and regulation process, develop requirements for the competent supervision of children and additional health and safety requirements necessary for the protection of children.
The sound of rambunctious young voices could be heard in the background as veteran Great Bend child care provider Carolyn Humburg tried to speak. She was almost as giddy as her youthful charges.
Why? Kansas has become a national leader when it comes to the state’s family child care home policies, according to a recently released report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).
NACCRRA ranked Kansas third overall for the state’s small family child care home policies in its 2012 report, Leaving Children to Chance: NACCRRA’s Ranking of State Standards and Oversight of Small Family Child Care Homes: 2012 Update.
“I’m pleased to see Kansas ranked as high as it was,” Humburg said. This only helps bolster the image of daycare providers and benefits the children.
“We’re finally getting some of the publicity we deserve,” said provider Sandy McMullen. “There’s so much negative feedback that it is nice to hear something positive for once.”
The report ranks every state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense (DoD) child care system, on 16 basic standards focused on ensuring the health, safety and well-being of children while in family child care homes serving six or fewer children. States were ranked based on a point system with states earning a maximum of 150 points.
Standards reviewed include: basic health and safety requirements; inspections prior to licensing; number of annual inspections and policies with regard to complaint-related inspections; types of background checks for child care providers and people in the household of licensed providers who are required to have a background check; provider education; initial training and annual training requirements; toys and materials required; learning activities required; group size limitations; and parent-provider communication requirements.
NACCRRA repeatedly cited Kansas (and Lexie’s Law) throughout the report as the state making the most significant changes to promote the safety and health of children in family child care homes.
“Kansas went from scoring zero in NACCRRA’s 2010 report to scoring 111, the third highest score in the country,” said Leadell Ediger, Executive Director, of Child Care Aware of Kansas. “There are so many in our state to credit for Lexie’s Law, from parents who advocated every day for stronger child care policies to policymakers and the Governor who sought to make a difference for our children.”
“I think they will be good,” Humburg said of the new standards. “It will keep us on our toes.”
According to the report, the average state score was 69 (46 percent) of a possible 150 points. Sixteen states received a score of zero.
“Our economy relies on working parents,” said Ediger. “And, for parents of young children, child care is critical. No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children in child care.”
Humburg has watched children for 33 years. “I have seen a lot of changes in that time.”
Child care is about more than just babysitting. “You’re teaching, you’re helping them learn.”
“It is a very rewarding job,” said McMullen, who has been in daycare for over four years. “It is a privilage. We’re stepping in and parents are trusting us with the most import things in their lives.”
According to the report, the top 10 states included: Oklahoma (120), Washington (119), Kansas (111), Delaware (109), DoD (107), Maryland (102), Alabama (97), the District of Columbia (96), Colorado (95) and Massachusetts (86).
Sixteen states received a score of zero because they do not license small family child care homes, do not conduct an inspection prior to issuing a license, or allow more than six children in the home before requiring a license. About half the states do not conduct inspections at least annually.
While most states require a background check for child care providers using a “name search”, only 25 states plus DoD require an FBI check, which is based on fingerprints. Twenty-three states require a state criminal records check using fingerprints. While Kansas checks the child abuse registry before issuing a license to providers, 13 states do not.
Among its strengths, Kansas is one of 15 states that meet all 10 health requirements and all 10 safety requirements that experts recommend to ensure that children are safe and healthy in child care. Kansas is one of eight states that meet all of the eight recommendations for required learning activities across an array of developmental areas for young children.
Kansas is one of just seven states that require toys and materials to promote learning in all eight developmental areas such as language and literacy, motor development, science, math and other domains essential to the healthy development and school readiness of children.
Kansas is one of only 11 states plus DoD that require licensing or regulation of all small family child care home providers caring for at least one unrelated child. Licensing carries requirements such as a background check, training, and inspections which help ensure that children are safe when in the care of someone other than their parents.
“We are so proud of Lexie’s law and all those who worked so hard to make it a reality,” said Ediger. “It just goes to show that we can really make a difference for children when we all come together.”
To download a copy of the full report, visit www.naccrra.org.