Violations at MN child care providers putting kids' safety at risk, audit says

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Cleaning supplies and other harmful substances where children could get to them. Electrical outlets, not properly shielded. Care providers in charge of kids, yet not having the right CPR or first aid training. Messy, cluttered kitchens.

These were some of the violations found at Minnesota child care centers that a federal audit found.

The report says the majority of the state's child care providers inspected by federal officials do not always comply with state licensing requirements – which is putting children's health and safety at risk.

It was released Monday and conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The audit looked at 20 child care providers that received grants from the Federal Child Care and Development Fund.

HHS found that, although the Minnesota Department of Human Services conducted required inspections on these facilities, it didn't actually make sure providers were complying with state licensing requirements.

In fact, only one of the 20 facilities was in compliance. Nineteen providers didn't meet one or more requirements, with many of the violations related to the physical condition of providers' homes.

Why? High caseloads, HHS says

The Health and Human Services department determined that the unmet state requirements and limited oversight happened "because the inspectors were responsible for too many providers, resulting in high caseloads and limiting the amount of time spent on each inspection," the report said.

HHS is recommending: reducing licensing inspectors' caseloads; more frequent monitoring of providers; and the development of a training program to improve providers' compliance.

But reducing inspectors' caseloads isn't that simple. Minnesota's county inspectors had one of the biggest burdens in the nation in 2013, the Star Tribune reports, with the eight inspectors each keeping track of roughly 150 providers.

Legislators increased funding last year to employ 12 inspectors, the Star Tribune says. But in the next two years more funding will be needed in order to hire enough inspectors to conduct annual visits to child care facilities.

For the audit, HHS accompanied county licensing officials on 20 unannounced inspections last year. In 2013, 2,980 child care providers in Minnesota received federal funding, HHS says.

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