Better for Babies: Healthy and Safe Environments in Which to Explore and Learn

Sep 05, 2013

By Stephanie Schmit and Hannah Matthews     

This post is the second installment in a series highlighting the findings from CLASP's recent study and subsequent publication, "Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies." Read the first post here.

Last week, CLASP released a new report, Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies, that presents data from a recent state survey of child care subsidy, licensing, and quality enhancement policies.  It provides a national picture of infant-toddler child care.

The new report is part of CLASP's Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care Project. The foundation of Charting Progress is a Policy Framework comprised of four key principles describing what babies and toddlers in child care need. One of the key principles is having healthy and safe environments in which to grow and learn. In the earliest years of life, babies naturally seek out interactions with their environment and with those people who take care of them.  It is through these interactions that they can begin to understand their world. If their needs are met, babies form a secure attachment to their caregiver that creates a foundation for healthy development in early childhood and beyond.

Findings from the Better for Babies Survey related to healthy and safe environments for infants and toddlers:

  • Most states fail to meet the national expert recommendations of Caring for Our Children, for ratios and group size. For infants in centers, states reported ratios of children to providers ranging from 3:1 to 7:1. Three states (Kansas, Maryland, and Massachusetts) meet the 3:1 recommendation for infants based on their state's definition of an infant. For toddlers in centers, states reported ratios ranging from 4:1 up to 12:1. Fourteen states meet the recommendation of 4:1 for at least the youngest toddlers in care.
  • Group sizes widely vary. Twelve states reported that they did not regulate group sizes for infants, and 11 states report­ed that they did not regulate group size for toddlers. Among states that do have such regulations, Maryland reported a maximum group size of 6 infants, while South Dakota reported a maximum group size of 20 infants. Other states regulating group sizes fall in between. Regulations also vary for toddlers, with states reporting maximum group sizes ranging from 8 to 22.
  • For infants and toddlers in family child care (FCC) homes, ratios and group sizes vary and depend on a number of factors, including ages of the children, number of providers, and whether or not the children are mobile. Due to the complexity of the standards, it is difficult to quantify ratios and group sizes from FCC homes. Only seven states (Connecticut, Mary­land, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia meet the recommendation of two children under age two for one FCC provider, as recommended in Caring for Our Children. South Dakota has the least restrictive policy and allows a maximum of 12 children under age 2 to one FCC provider.
  • Only six states require specific infant-toddler training for licensing and monitoring staff. Regular monitoring of child care settings can ensure children's safety. When information from monitoring visits is coupled with technical assistance, providers can get help complying with licensing standards. Specific infant-toddler training can improve implementation of health and safety standards particular to babies.

Read the full report here >>

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