Risks of Unregulated Child Care Programs in Alabama

The Alabama Partnership for Children and VOICES for Alabama’s Children have launched Don’t Be In The Dark About Child Care, a statewide public awareness campaign to inform parents about the health and safety risks associated with Alabama’s unregulated child care programs. Alabama is one of only seven states that allow child care programs to legally operate without a license. According to VOICES for Alabama’s Children, nearly one-half of child care programs in Alabama are uninspected and unregulated for the state minimum standards for health and safety.

“There is an assumption and false assurance across all income and education levels that child care programs legally operating are regularly inspected and monitored. The Don’t Be in the Dark About Child Care campaign brings to light the unknown and possibly dangerous situations in which we might be placing our youngest, most vulnerable children each day and provides clear information to parents who are making what is often the first and most important decision for their child” said Gail Piggott, executive director of the Alabama Partnership for Children.

Alabama’s dual system of child care includes licensed child care that is annually inspected by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) and exempt child care that is uninspected and unregulated for compliance with the state minimum standards for health and safety, which include staff criminal background checks, appropriate staff-to-child ratios, staff certified in First Aid and CPR, and inspection of the facility and grounds. Child care programs can claim exemption from licensing and inspections if they are affiliated with a church ministry or religious nonprofit elementary school.

“Child care licensing standards are in place to set among other things the minimum health and safety standards for operating a child care program. Under our state’s current dual system of child care, too many children are not afforded the minimum floor of protection. When some programs are allowed to operate without having to meet minimum standards it creates an unlevel playing field and more importantly puts children at risk,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. According to the Alabama Kids Count Data Book published annually by VOICES for Alabama’s Children, there has been a drastic decline in Alabama’s licensed child care programs over the past 15 years, while the number of exempt programs has steadily risen.

Child care is a necessary support for working families, and high-quality child care programs are proven to help bridge the learning gap and prepare children to succeed in school. In an effort to inform and empower parents to demand quality child care that is regularly inspected for health and safety, the Don’t Be In The Dark About Child Care campaign launched www.alabamachildcarefacts.com and will air TV and radio commercials statewide. Parents and child care providers can email alabamachildcarefacts@gmail.com or call (866) 711-4025 for more information and resources.

About the Alabama Partnership for Children

The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit 

www.SmartStartAlabama.org.

 About VOICES for Alabama’s Children

VOICES for Alabama’s Children is a statewide nonprofit child advocacy organization that works to ensure the well-being of Alabama’s children through research, public awareness, and advocacy. For more information, visit www.alavoices.org.