Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 10: Licensing and Community Action

10.3 Licensing Agency

10.3.3 Licensing Role with Staff Credentials, Child Abuse Prevention, and ADA Compliance Credentialing of Individual Child Care Providers

The state licensing agency or a credentialing body recognized by the state child care regulatory agency should credential or license all persons who provide child care or who may be responsible for children or who may be alone with children in a facility. The credential should be granted to individuals who meet age, education, and experience qualifications, whose health status facilitates providing safe and nurturing care, and who have no record of conviction for criminal offenses against persons, especially children, or confirmed act of child abuse. The state should establish qualifications for differentiated roles in child care and a procedure for verifying that the individual who is authorized to perform a specified role meets the qualifications and is credentialed for that role.

 Individual credentialing will enhance child health and development and protect children by ensuring that the staff who care for children are healthy and are qualified for their roles. The current system, in which the details of staff qualifications and ongoing training are checked as part of facility inspection, is cumbersome for child care administrators and licensing inspectors alike. If staff qualifications were established as part of a separate, more central process, the licensing agency staff could check center records of character references and whether staff members have licenses for the roles for which they are employed.

Centralizing individual credentialing, qualifying, or licensing (whichever term is consistent with the state’s approach to authorizing legal professional activity) will improve control over quality, encourage a career ladder with increasing qualifications, and reduce the risk of abuse. It will help consumers know that individuals who are caring for their children have met basic requirements for consumer protection. Such a process is analogous to that provided for other education professionals (teachers), and even those service providers with less potential for harm than is involved in caring for children (such as beauticians, barbers, taxi drivers).

The cost of individual certification, credentialing, or licensure will be offset by the benefits to consumers of reliable and consistent qualifications of child care personnel. Program administrators, licensors, and child care personnel, who do not have to undertake the tedious process of verification of each portion of an individual’s credentials during all site visits, when sites are licensed, or when individuals change jobs, will experience cost savings and assurance of compliance. Public and private policymakers should use financial and other incentives to help caregivers/teachers meet credentialing requirements. They should encourage community colleges to offer courses appropriate for provider training at times convenient for child care workers to attend and for other agencies to offer online courses available to providers from their homes or places of employment.

Periodic renewal of the credential should be required, and should be related to requirements for continuing education and the absence of founded claims of child abuse or criminal convictions. The requirement for renewable certification is likely to deter people from applying for work in child care as a way of gaining access to children for sexual purposes since the process would include a background screening that includes a check of the sex offender registry and child abuse registry (1).

In a centralized individual credentialing system, successful completion of education should be verified by requiring the individual to submit evidence of completion of credit-bearing courses that have been previously approved as meeting the state’s requirements to a central verification office where this transcript should be continually updated. Background screening records should be checked by state licensing agency staff for evidence of behavior that would disqualify an individual for work in specified child care roles. Evidence of a recent health examination indicating ability to care for children can be submitted at the same time. The center director then knows whether job applicants who have been working in the field previously are qualified at the time they apply for the job, without lengthy waiting for background checks of a prospective employee and without having to hire before background checks have been completed. By this means, children are not exposed to health and safety risks from understaffing, or to care by unqualified or even dangerous individuals employed provisionally because the results of a check are not yet available to the director.
  1. Finkelhor, D., L. M. William, N. Burns. 1988. Nursery crimes: Sexual abuse in day care. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.