Parents urged to research Arizona summer programs

Source: Michelle Ye Hee Lee | The Republic |
June 29, 2014

PHOENIX – Parents signing their children up for day programs this summer should know that some are exempt from state oversight that regulates quality of care.

State law carves out a niche for a variety of child-care facilities that host day programs, allowing them to operate without licensing by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Licensing by ADHS subjects facilities and their staff to state background checks and inspections.

It is unclear how many unlicensed children’s programs there are in the state. Some might have a national accreditation requiring background-check or inspection guidelines, though the state generally doesn’t keep records of such accreditation.

The lack of uniform regulation of children’s programs, including summer day and overnight camps, creates uncertainties for parents regarding safety and standards, and whether the programs are meeting minimum health and safety criteria, said Erin Raden, Arizona Child Care Association executive director.

“Anytime you have an unlicensed program, you just kind of have a question mark,” Raden said. “I’m sure many of them would be totally safe and up to the standards, (but) as a parent, you don’t have the assurance that you have from a licensed program.”

But licensing is just one baseline, Raden added. It is up to parents to research programs and their licensing status, decide what they’re comfortable with based on the age and maturity of their children, and educate their children to make safe choices, she said.

“That’s something the parent has to decide based on the comfort level of the unlicensed program and the confidence in their child not to find trouble,” Raden said.

Two years ago, Arizona legislators expanded regulatory exemptions to state law so that fewer child-care facilities would be subject to state oversight.

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