Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.
The Louisiana Department of Social Services offers a variety of programs designed to help children and families – particularly in the area of ensuring quality child care is available.
Among those programs are the department’s provision of child-care assistance for needy families, resource and referral programs for both parents and child-care providers, licensing and monitoring of child-care facilities, quality incentives to care providers and repair and improvement grants for facilities.
"DSS has realized that quality child care is an important factor for improving the lives of the young citizens of Louisiana," LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe said. "So despite budget downsizing in the state, they’ve made budgetary decisions and set policies with quality child care in mind."
One of the major programs is the departments Child Care Assistance Program – which is designed to assist both parents seeking child care and child-care providers through such efforts as licensing and monitoring, referral programs and others.
Under its child-care assistance program, families meeting certain financial guidelines may qualify for monetary assistance to pay for child care in Class A child-care programs or registered family day care homes while adult family members work or attend school.
In addition, DSS contracts with approved trainers and agencies to provide child-care provider training. A variety of agencies, including the LSU AgCenter, offer this training, which helps child-care providers meet the educational requirements necessary to maintain their Class A child-care licenses.
"Resource and referral services are another program that DSS offers," Gioe said, explaining, "Resource and referral agencies offer a wide range of services to families and child-care providers."
The services offered include referrals to child-care facilities, parenting classes, assistance to new child-care facilities and resource centers for child-care providers and teachers.
Licensing and monitoring also are an important part of ensuring quality child care, according to Gioe, who says the state Department of Social Services is charged with overseeing the registration and licensing of child-care facilities as well as monitoring child-care facilities to ensure safe and healthy environments for children.
"DSS now posts reports of monitoring visits on its Web site," Gioe said. "That means families looking for child care can use this tool to make informed decisions regarding the care providers they choose for their children."
Quality incentives also are given to Class A child-care centers that receive accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and for Family Day Care Home providers who participate in Education, Child and Adult Care Food Program.
In addition, DSS offers Repair and Improvement grants to Class A child-care providers. These grants range from $600 to $10,000 and are to be used to meet or maintain the requirements for Class A licensing.
To further its work in the area of child care, DSS works with advisory committees appointed by the governor as a means of ensure that the concerns of families, children and child-care providers are heard.
Those groups are appointed by the governor and include the Child Care and Development Fund Advisory Council, which makes recommendations to DSS that can and will improve the quality of child care for children in Louisiana, and the Child Care Facility and Child Placing Agencies Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to DSS regarding child-care facilities failing to maintain licensing standards.
For more information regarding the programs DSS has for Louisiana families, children and child-care providers, visit www.dss.state.la.us.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.