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Section 3: Look into related programs and agencies in your state

An important preliminary step in developing a Choose Safe Places program is to understand the current licensing and legal landscape. Finding overlap with existing laws, regulations, and other guidance from prominent organizations can help support the foundations of your program. What work are other agencies and non-governmental organizations already doing that might complement your Choose Safe Places program — and how could you collaborate?

Tip: Build support from other agencies by showing them how a Choose Safe Places program will fit into the work that they’re already doing — without necessarily increasing costs.

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Work with the state agency tasked with the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)

The Childcare and Development Fund (CCDF) helps low-income families get child care. CCDF also improves child care quality and promotes coordination between early childhood development and afterschool programs.

Implications for your program

  • The original 1996 law governing the CCDF was updated in 2014 — and the reauthorization made important changes that relate to safety and environmental health
  • As outlined in this CCDF Health and Safety Requirements Brief [PDF – 283 KB], states must now establish health and safety requirements in 10 topic areas, including building and physical premises safety and “the identification of and protection from hazards that can cause bodily injury such as electrical hazards, bodies of water, and vehicular traffic”
  • Your state’s health department can offer help to the lead agency tasked with the CCDF and share information about the importance of choosing safe places for early care and education (ECE) programs

Offer assistance to the agency that develops your state’s comprehensive child care plan

As part of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Reauthorization, all states, territories, and tribes must submit a comprehensive child care plan every 3 years. These plans describe the grantee’s child care program and all available services. They also serve as applications for CCDGB funds. If the Office of Child Care approves the plan, the funds are awarded for the next federal year.

Implications for your program

  • If you establish a connection with the agency developing your state’s plan, you can educate them about environmental health and safety concerns — and urge them to consider adding Choose Safe Places components to their next revision of the plan
  • If your state’s plan has been conditionally approved but hasn’t yet met the requirements, you have a perfect opportunity to discuss adding Choose Safe Places considerations — refer the agency to the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education Guidance Manual

Look into adding Choose Safe Places concerns to your state’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)

Some states develop a QRIS — an optional assessment tool that encourages improvements in school-age care and education programs. A QRIS creates standards that go beyond the basic licensing requirements and then awards quality ratings to programs that meet them. States increasingly use money from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) to create a QRIS (or elements of a QRIS).

Getting a high quality rating has several advantages for educational programs. They can advertise the fact to set them apart from other programs. They may also receive additional support — such as technical assistance, professional development, tiered subsidy reimbursement, and bonus payments and awards — to maintain these higher quality levels.

Implications for your program

  • If your state has a QRIS, or is developing one, you can offer assistance to the agency in charge
  • States have a great deal of latitude in choosing the areas they want to focus on as QRIS standards — and currently very few states have a QRIS that addresses health and safety
  • Other states offer useful models for how to develop a QRIS program — this overview of state programs from the Administration for Children and Families may help
  • Discuss the possibility of making health and safety concerns — specifically related to environmental health — one of the standards to support your program’s goals

Work with Head Start grantees

Head Start grantees have to meet standards that support the healthy cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of children from birth to age 5. The current performance standards — which came into effect in November 2016 — include requirements about facilities being free of pollutants, hazards, and toxins. Funding is available to buy, build, and renovate facilities, subject to eligibility requirements.

Implications for your program

  • Head Start’s new performance standards align with the goals of Choose Safe Places programs — reaching out to Head Start grantees to discuss environmental health concerns could lead to important partnerships
  • Parts 1302.47 (safety practices) and 1303.42 (facilities) have the most obvious overlap with Choose Safe Places concerns
  • Note that Head Start funding goes directly to grantees and not through a state agency, so you’ll need to work with individual programs in your state — you can track them down by using the Head Start Locator
  • Find out which state and local agencies get funding from CDC or USDA Early Care and Education programs

Find out which state and local agencies get funding from CDC or USDA Early Care and Education programs

State and local agencies receive federal funding from various programs to improve early care and education in different ways. You may find areas of overlap between these programs and Choose Safe Places work, such as establishing access to safe drinking water. You can also learn from these agencies about other focus areas as they’re incorporated into standards for state licensing requirements, quality rating improvements systems, and training for ECE providers.

Implications for your program

Understand the role of educational accreditation associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Some of these organizations offer information and contacts that may be helpful as you develop a Choose Safe Places program. Accreditation agencies promote high quality early learning for young children. Most have accreditation criteria for ECE centers that go beyond basic licensing requirements — and some address issues related to the program’s building and environmental health. You may also find overlap between your program and those of NGOs focused on children’s health or environmental health.

Implications for your program

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