The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 17, 2014

Child care in state lacking in quality

Most programs are of minimum or unknown quality, according to report

CHARLESTON — Child care programs of minimum or unrated quality are watching over about 93 percent of West Virginia children enrolled in them, a report released Wednesday said.

Only 1,680 of 68,600 children are in programs that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the highest quality. Another 2,800 children are in programs that participate in the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Tier II reimbursement program, West Virginia KIDS COUNT said in its annual report on children’s wellbeing.

Nearly 31,000 children are in programs that meet only minimum licensing standards. The remaining 31,126 are in programs of unknown quality.

More than 62 percent of child care workers in the state have no formal training in tending to children, the report said.

The report recommends that the state increase access to high-quality programs, develop integrated and comprehensive programs that address all assets of early childhood development, and support parents through programs such as child care coaching.

“Every child born in West Virginia deserves the best possible start in life,” Margie Hale, West Virginia KIDS COUNT executive director, said Wednesday in a news release.

“From the moment they are born, children’s brains are being wired for success in school and life. It’s no exaggeration to say their future and ours depend on their getting a great start. That’s why we must commit today to the public investments we know will reap big rewards tomorrow: dramatically improving the quality of and expanding access to child care and pre-school programs.”

Hale said the state should expand its pre-kindergarten program to include all 3-year-olds and implement a child care quality rating and improvement system that the Legislature approved in 2009 but never funded.

Overall, the report ranked West Virginia 37th in the nation for child wellbeing, based on indicators that include teen birth rate, infant mortality rate, the percent of children living in poverty and the percent of high school dropouts.

Among the state’s 55 counties, the report ranked Monongalia County first and McDowell County last for child wellbeing.

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