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Illinois legislator wants more accountability over child care regulators

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing a new state agency that will handle all early childhood programs, lifting some of the responsibility off of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services. However there are concerns over the impact on licensed child care centers and how this would fix the issues within DCFS.

In October, Pritzker proposed a new state agency that will handle all early childhood development programs and the funding that goes with it. The programs currently are split up across three different state agencies, including DCFS, which cutrently oversees and licenses child day care centers.

DCFS has faced several issues for years when dealing with children in their custody or on their radar dying or facing mental or physical abuse. Recently, there have been issues around DCFS’s rule making for which day care provider staff can monitor rooms of children, and for how long. Child care operators have said putting limits on the type of staff that can monitor rooms puts a strain on available workers.

State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said giving the day care licensing oversight responsibility to a new agency fails to address the root problems.

“Ironically, he [Pritzker] is removing the day care licensing function and responsibility from DCFS to this new agency,” Reick said in October on the House floor. “I have been calling for that for months. I don’t think DCFS has any business doing this or many other things.”

But, Reick said, the proposed changes do nothing without accountability.

“If we do not have some sort of accountability both in this agency and the Department of Children and Family services, nothing is going to change,” Reick said.

In October, when Pritzker proposed the new state agency for early childhood development, Dezaray Brookshire of Illinois Directors and Owners of Childcare Centers said she supports the agency if the proper parties have an equal say.

“We are thankful that these conversations are happening,” Brookshire told The Center Square. “However, we do want to make sure that stakeholders get the biggest input in this, which is what we have been striving for the last several years.”

Reick, however, said DCFS has not included any care center officials in their discussions.

“If DCFS wants to do something about licensing, it ought to pick up its game and talk to the people that this affects,” Reick told The Center Square. “They did not take into account the effect it was going to have on daycare centers themselves because they have never talked to the stakeholders on this matter.”

Reick has been vocal about the issues within the agency but said that this is a bipartisan issue that many lawmakers have spoken out against.

“Listen to what we have to say because it was coming from not only me but also the Democrats on [the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules],” Reick said. “[Chicago state Rep.] Curtis Tarver lit into them [DCFS officials], everyone lit into them.”

Pritzker’s proposal for a new state agency focused on early childhood development could be discussed further when lawmakers return in January.

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