What Defines “Imminent Danger” Where Children are Concerned?
Lost Messiah Contributor, July 20, 2016
A recent study by Citylimits.org uncovered abuses, the likes of which parallel the abject failure of New York State governance of Nursing Homes to sufficiently protect the frail and aged.
In this case, it’s all about the subsidies going to poorly or completely un-monitored day care facilities for children which are given vouchers funded by the Administration of Children’s Services-ACS. The funding is provided but that is where ACS begins and ends in the process.
The optics of citizen money being generously given to under served communities to pay for child care services may seem on its face to be for the greater good; but the troubling data and disproportionate numbers in Borough Park would suggest something else is going on.
The investigation by Citylimits.org is troubling because “legally exempt” childcare facilities are also exempt from reporting. Their “informal” nature provides a window for subsidies but no parameters for care.
And – THE CHILDREN MAY BE IN IMMINENT DANGER…
Cuomo’s Day Care Regs Omit Thousands of Informal Providers
After a legislative committee failed to approve a law to give the state significantly more power over certain city-registered daycare programs, Gov. Cuomo recently unveiled a set of “emergency regulations.” The amended rulesgive the Office of Children and Family Services, at least temporarily, more leeway to act in cases of “egregious violations”—or health and safety issues—at state-licensed daycare facilities. And a new state law passed last month will require the 2,300 daycares registered with the city’s health department to post “performance summary cards” at their entrances.
What these reforms do not address, however, are the approximately 24,000 providers in the city “legally exempt” from both city and state licensing, but “enrolled” with the state to receive day care subsidies awarded to parents, according to 2015 statistics. They account for about half of the providers enrolled in New York City last year. Yet almost no information about legally-exempt providers is made public. Neither the performance summary card law nor the Cuomo regulations will apply to this category of care.
The state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) says it is working to implement new federally mandated regulations statewide, including “extended background checks” for legally exempt providers. And some safeguards, it says, are already in place.
“Legally-exempt providers enrolled in the child care subsidy program are exempt from the regulations under which licensed and registered child care providers operate, but they are not exempt from all oversight,” according to Janice Molnar, OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Care Services.
Oftentimes they are family child care providers—friends, family and neighbors providing “informal care in their homes to no more than two unrelated children.” And they already are screened to see that they meet “basic health and safety” standards, she says.
But John Pinkos, director of the childcare division of the Day Care Council of New York, contends that those standards are so minimal, it hardly matters. “There’s no expertise, there’s basically no monitoring,” Pinkos says.
Even at licensed facilities which are given initial and annual inspections, violations—including public health hazards—are common.
At legally exempt programs, parents are responsible for making sure their children are in good hands.
A City Limits investigation found that:
- Complaints and violations lodged against the majority of legally-exempt providers are not available in the state’s online database for licensed daycares, and are also not listed on the city’s website. Only parents whose children are already enrolled with a provider get mailed notification of infractions at a site, according to a spokesperson for The Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), the non-profit which employs the 23 inspectors to investigate all complaints lodged against legally exempt providers and to conduct other screenings.
- Whedco is under a more than $6 million annual contract with the state to determine which providers may be considered legally exempt from licensing but still receive payments from a variety of child-care subsidies awarded to families (other informal arrangements would be seen simply as babysitting). The organization conducts random inspections of 20 percent of legally exempt providers annually, as required by the state.
- In addition to home-based care, there are 167 legally exempt “center-based” daycare providers not listed anywhere publicly. Only the directors of these programs are given background checks in order to become enrolled providers, according to WHEDco, though some fall under the purview of the city’s health department or under that of the Department of Education.
The vast majority of the city’s 167 legally-exempt center-based programs—144 of them—are located in Brooklyn. A single ZIP code in Borough Park is home to 35 legally exempt centers, according to information released after a recent FOIL request to the Administration of Children’s Services, which assists with the initial screening of providers for benefits eligibility.
In 2015, 30 percent of children using day-care subsidies were taken care of by “legally exempt” providers, who compete with licensed providers like the ones Pinkos’ organization represents for per-seat funding.
According to a report by the Committee For Hispanic Children and Families, Inc., an education and advocacy organization with the stated goal of expanding opportunities for Latino families, subsidies come from ACS’s Division of Early Care and Education, which administers publicly-funded childcare for children aged six weeks to four years of age in group centers and family child care settings; the Human Resources Administration voucher program for child care services, serving primarily children whose parents participate in welfare-to-work or transitioning off public assistance; and the Department of Education (DOE).
But while legally exempt facilities must enroll with the state in order to receive subsidy checks distributed by the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), that is where contact with providers begins and ends, according to the agency.
“ACS funds child care vouchers that are accept by a number of privately run child care organizations. Legally-exempt child care programs are one type of program that accepts vouchers,” read a statement by the agency.
Parents who opt for legally-exempt caregivers are responsible for paying and monitoring them as they would employees, and are reminded in writing that they are responsible for checking up on their kids.
In New York City, WHEDco provides what little oversight there is, enrolling providers on a rolling basis from four locations located throughout the boroughs.
WHEDco’s sign-up package for new legally-exempt providers encourages them to go through 10 hours of training for “enhanced” subsidies on things like “shaken baby syndrome.” But no such training is required.
To read the article in its entirety click here.