A state health official says Kansas has made strides in improving the quality of day care for children, though legislators are raising concerns that financial issues could erode the gains in the future.
Rachel Berroth, director of the Bureau of Family Health for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told a legislative committee last week that the changes put in place in 2010 helped Kansas improve its national rankings from among the lowest in the country at 41st to third as measured by an industry organization.
The 2010 initiative is known as Lexie's Law in honor of 13-month-old Lexie Engleman who was fatally injured in 2004 at a Johnson County day care.
The law requires all Kansas child care facilities to be inspected and licensed. It requires additional health and safety training for staff, including basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as additional information for parents and an online database of providers.
While the number of child care facilities dropped from 7,800 to 6,400 under the law, Berroth said the number of children in their care has risen from 139,000 to 140,000. She said KDHE doesn't expect changes to the law will be necessary in 2013.
Berroth said her agency has been largely protected from spending cuts, and funding concerns shouldn't minimize the gains already made..
Berroth said stagnant resources means agency staffers are working longer days to enforce the expanded licensing and inspection requirements.
Sen. Roger Reitz, a Manhattan Republican who's leaving office in January, said he was uneasy about the state's recent shift toward not adequately funding Kansas government programs and what that could mean for child care.
"My concern is, of course, that you don't have enough financial support to do what you need to do," Reitz said.
Berroth said county offices were also assisting with licensing and inspections, easing the burden on the state. She also said all levels of government are pulling together resources to provide services.
Obviously we're in a similar situation of other state agencies and programs. We're underfunded, that's true. We deal with vacancies."
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said implementation of the law was "probably one of the cleanest cases of addressing an issue and getting it done and getting it done in a timely fashion."