Early Childhood

Lack of Oversight Found in Mississippi Child Care System

By Lillian Mongeau — March 03, 2016 2 min read
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An ongoing investigation by a nonprofit education news outlet, The Hechinger Report, has found that children have been left in harm’s way due to “minimal expectations, inconsistent rule enforcement and little help for centers that break safety regulations” in Mississippi.

Reporters Jackie Mader, who also writes the Rural Education blog for Education Week, and Sarah Butrymowicz, Hechinger’s data editor, are in the midst of publishing a multipart investigation of Mississippi’s day-care system. (Full disclosure: As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I work for Hechinger too.)

Having interviewed workers at 30 child care centers, reviewed 392 inspection reports and read 79 complaint investigations, Mader and Butrymowicz have found a child care system beset with problems: centers struggling to provide the best for children with too little funding from the state; parents unable to afford or push for better care, workers lacking proper training and paid abysmal wages; and the legislators who have not acted to raise the standard of care in the state.

Jim Craig, who directs the state’s Office of Health Protection, responded to the investigation with a pledge to improve. But also said it was a challenge to oversee such a sprawling, non-centralized system. He pointed out that state inspectors “can’t be in every child care facility in the state of Mississippi every day. Even if we were there four times a year, that’s still four times a year out of the number of days a child care facility is open,” he said.

Each week, starting on Jan. 31, Mader and Butrymowicz, in cooperation with The Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi, have published a new piece of the story, and they have several more to go.

Mississippi is hardly alone in having very weak oversight of its child-care programs. The Center for Investigative Reporting found similar problems in California in 2014, and Jonathan Cohn took a national look at this issue in his New Republic story “The Hell of American Day Care” in 2013.

Here’s a recap of what the Mississippi child-care investigation has reported so far:

Child Care Crisis: State’s weak oversight puts children in harm’s way in Mississippi

Who should fix problems with Mississippi’s early childhood system?

High turnover and low pay for employees may undermine state’s child care system

For Mississippi parents, child care costs lead to tough choices

Will 2016 be the year Mississippi prioritizes child care?

A daycare center accused in baby death can keep operating

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.