A guest blog post from Toni Baptiste, mother, advocate, and licensed school-age child care provider in Prince George’s County
Did you know that in Maryland, ALL child care centers are required to be licensed to operate?
The Code of Maryland Regulations defines a child care center as:
“…an agency, institution, or establishment that, on a regular schedule for at least 2 days per week and for at least 2 hours per day, or on a 24-hour basis, offers or provides child care to children who do not have the same parentage, except as otherwise provided for in law or regulation.”
(ii) A facility providing specialized training in a specific discipline or subject that also offers a child related service such as, but not limited to, transportation, free play, meals or snacks, tutoring, or homework sessions.
There are programs in our community advertising and offering a variety of opportunities for school-age children in the after-school hours. These services are vital for working families, and can be of value in the enrichment and education of our children. These operations fall under the description of a “child care center” and if they are operating without a license from the Maryland State Department of Education Office of Child Care, they are providing unlicensed, unregulated, illegal child care.
And this matters to all of us.
Why is regulated care important?
A child care license is important because it means that the program has oversight by a state agency. That agency is ensuring the program and its staff:
- meets the state’s requirements for health and safety in the program’s operations
- have passed background checks on all persons who come in contact with the children
- are trained in appropriate supervision and accountability practices
- follow health practices such as proper handwashing and disinfecting of the environment and materials
- have sufficient numbers of trained staff to supervise based on the number of children in the program
- have sufficient space and facilities for the number of children enrolled in the program at any time
Licensed programs are not only likely to have high-quality programs that provide your child enriching learning experiences, but they also know how to best keep your child safe and are regularly monitored (through unannounced inspections) to ensure they are continuing to meet the state’s legal requirements.
Unfortunately, most public schools allow unlicensed before and after school care programs to drop-off and pick-up students at the schools. To keep your child as safe as possible, you should always pick a licensed program. Your school-age child requires and deserves appropriate safety and health practices too. You’re never too old for safety.
The Prince George’s Child Resource Center team believes that all programs responsible for the well-being and safety of children should be licensed and adhere to basic safety and health standards.
We know you believe it too.
Action steps for parents
I strongly encourage all parents to choose quality, state-licensed school-age child care programs. Before you choose a program for your child, ask, “Are you licensed?”
- Even if you believe they are, ask them to be sure. Licensed programs must display their licenses in a front area or prominent place for all to see. You can also find out if a program is licensed by contacting the state’s licensing office.
- If they say they aren’t, ask them why? Tell them that it’s important to you, and all parents, that your children’s programs are licensed and follow recommended safety and accountability practices. Let them know that licensing is important to you.
- If they aren’t licensed, you can also decide to leave and find a licensed program. Your child deserves to be in a safe, regulated environment.
I encourage you to:
- Contact the Prince George’s Child Resource center with any questions about licensure, or ideas for how to find a child care arrangement that works for you, and maybe even help to pay for it.
- Take action with us when it’s time to contact state legislators and others about child care for working families! It is their job to make sure all child care programs comply with the regulations.