Ed note: This post originally appeared in the ACF Family Room Blog. View the original post here.
It is time to rethink monitoring approaches across early care and education programs.
Last month, the final Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) regulations were published in the Federal Register. Based on the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014, the regulations strengthen many important health, safety, and child development requirements. It also includes provisions related to the frequency of inspections and competency and workload of inspectors.
In support of the law and the new regulations, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) issued a joint policy statement on Coordinated Efficiencies in Monitoring and Oversight of Early Care and Education programs. The purpose of this policy statement is to set a new vision for monitoring and oversight policy and practice within states. Among other things, the statement encourages states to shift the current focus of monitoring from one of “compliance only” to “continuous quality improvement.” It also tries to ensure that monitoring visits are used to promote changes in behavior and improve overall quality of service.
At the recent State and Territory CCDF Administrators meeting, one of the plenaries brought together Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Linda Smith with representatives from the Food and Nutrition Service, the Office of Head Start, and the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. The session focused on aligning monitoring across early care and education programs to promote efficiency, cost-effectiveness, coordination, collaboration, and a shifted focus of monitoring from “compliance only” to continuous quality improvement.
What became clear is that monitoring policies have been a challenge for states for decades, but with careful reform things have improved. While Inspector General Reports from the 1990s showed weaknesses in monitoring programs participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), monitoring is now effective and highly regarded among providers and monitors. Reforms in Head Start monitoring have led to more effective, supportive approaches to oversight and continuous quality improvement.
All of these changes — the reauthorization of CCDBG, the new Head Start Performance Standards, and the publishing of final CCDF regulations — offer an opportunity to review current monitoring systems to better align standards and promote greater efficiencies in a more effective, uniform, and cost-effective approach to monitoring.
To assist states in aligning monitoring approaches, we have developed a list of tools and resources to spur discussion, ideas, and innovation to promote more effective monitoring strategies that better support monitors, providers, and the children who will benefit.
By the Office on Early Childhood Development