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Delaware Senate Democrats

Sen. Kyle Evans Gay sponsors 3-bill package to strengthen Delaware’s network of licensed childcare facilities

May 8, 2024

DOVER – Building on the General Assembly’s work to make child care more accessible, Sen. Kyle Evans Gay on Wednesday introduced three bills that would give families greater assurance that Delaware childcare facilities are being held to the highest standards of safety and accountability.

Two of the bills would help to strengthen state oversight of childcare facilities, while another would help those facilities better protect the health and safety of young children in their care. 

“Delaware families depend on a strong network of licensed childcare providers to help parents seek work and workforce training, while giving young children the kinds of early education opportunities that can result in a lifetime of positive outcomes,” Sen. Gay said.

“As we expand access to childcare opportunities for more families, we also need to do more to make sure that providers have a strong, professional workforce and our state is doing its part to make sure licensed providers are implementing best practices to prevent children from being harmed,” she said. “The bills I am introducing today will make significant progress in our ongoing effort to build a safe, thriving and affordable childcare network here in the First State.”

Senate Joint Resolution 7 would direct the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) to adopt an electronic childcare licensing record system and registry of childcare professionals by June 1, 2026, with a report on the agency’s progress due by January 31, 2025.

While Delaware’s K-12 district and charter schools use an electronic database to help facilitate the movement of students and educators through grade levels and across school buildings, childcare centers are forced to complete and maintain duplicative paper records to help the state track enrollment, workforce, and licensing.

Under SJR 7, DOE would be directed to adopt an electronic record system and registry that provides an online application process for both new providers and existing providers that want to expand their programs. The system also would need to have the capability of compiling data about enrollment, capacity, and outstanding waiting lists.

“Childcare isn’t just a service; it’s a fundamental support system for working families,” said Rep. Cyndie Romer, House prime sponsor of SJR 7. “This resolution, along with the other pieces of legislation in this package, will make that support system stronger by elevating safety and accountability standards in our childcare facilities and ensuring that every child receives the care and protection they deserve.”

Senate Bill 294 would continue the process of transferring the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) to DOE by eliminating the existing salary schedule for childcare licensing specialists, supervisors, and administrators.

While OCCL was moved from the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families in 2019, the staff salary schedule was not aligned, resulting in employees being paid significantly less than their counterparts working in other areas of DOE. With salaries under the existing schedule starting at $32,640 and maxing out at $52,350, OCCL has struggled to retain staff to oversee state licensing of childcare facilities.

SB 294 would allow DOE to provide compensation to OCCL staff that is equitable with the rest of the department.

“Ensuring the safety and quality of our childcare facilities is a vitally important job, and if we want to attract and retain talent to fill these roles, we have to make sure their salaries are on par with the value and importance of their work,” said Rep. DeShanna Neal, the prime House sponsor of SB 294. “This is a common-sense measure that will address the long-standing salary disparities faced by staff at the OCCL. I commend Sen. Gay for bringing this legislation forward and for supporting those who look out for the well-being of our children.”

Senate Bill 295 would strengthen the service letters that prospective childcare professionals with prior experience must provide to healthcare and childcare facilities before they can be hired.

Specifically, the bill would require service letters to include statements from prior employers regarding any concerns they have about the job candidate working with children and any warnings, reprimands, suspensions or discharge the job candidate received during their previous employment.

“Our children deserve nothing less than the safest, most nurturing environments as they grow and learn,” said Rep. Krista Griffith, the House prime sponsor of SB 295. “By making sure that the service letter sent to providers contain the information they need to make informed decisions about who cares for children, SB 295 not only enhances safety but also gives parents greater peace of mind when entrusting their child’s well-being to childcare professionals.”

SJR 7, SB 294 and SB 295 were assigned to the Senate Education Committee.