Audit shows improvement in child safetyThe Legislative Audit Report cover letter summarizes the steps Wisconsin has taken to protect children and maintain integrity in the Wisconsin Shares Program.
By: By Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, Superior Telegram
The Legislative Audit Report cover letter summarizes the steps Wisconsin has taken to protect children and maintain integrity in the Wisconsin Shares Program.
The report confirms that throughout 2009, the Legislature and Department of Children and Families have taken numerous steps to restore public confidence and aggressively address fraud and abuse. However, ongoing aggressive effort is needed to adequately regulate the childcare industry and assure that children are safe.
In the past year, the Department of Children and Families has justified its creation. While the audit looks back to highlight certain regulatory concerns, it also demonstrates that the Department has taken prompt action to improve oversight, revoke licenses from poorly performing centers and improve overall accountability in the program. The department has used the tools the Legislature provided to add staff and implement new procedures to more carefully oversee the industry.
The priority during the past year has been to attack fraud and remove bad actors from caring for children. In less than nine months, 120 childcare providers have been suspended and on all accounts the program is much better managed today than one year ago. However, the Department must utilize the same energy to improve their regulatory oversight responsibilities.
It appears as though the Department has already begun efforts to aggressively address concerns stated in the audit report.
For instance, the department has taken steps to improve the data collection system to better coordinate licensure and regulatory data. In addition, Secretary Reggie Bicha and his top administrators are now personally overseeing efforts to assure that appropriate action is applied toward facilities with serious and persistent violations.
The parents who send their kids to childcare centers expect those centers to offer safe, secure and nurturing environments.
Much has been accomplished to meet that need and provide the highest quality childcare programs while meeting our responsibility to protect children and families. However, we must continue to build upon our cooperative efforts and set the bar even higher to maintain the best childcare system in the country.
I will continue to work with the Secretary and Department staff to assure that all appropriate steps are taken to improve the quality of care in our childcare centers. I am confident that the Department effort to improve regulatory oversight will continue and will schedule a hearing in April to highlight the ongoing progress.