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 Article of Interest - Childcare

Childcare Licensing Restructured, Releases Web Reports

Gongwer News Service, 9-26-02

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Until this week, the Department of Consumer and Industry Services Bureau of Regulatory Services had consultants who dealt with child day care, adult foster care and child welfare programs. But the new Bureau of Family Services will change the focus of those employees to licensing, inspections and complaint resolution.

CIS Director Noelle Clark and Bureau Chief Carol Engle said the bureau had only very slowly been changing structure over the last several years, but the impending retirement of 40 percent of its workforce left the bureau unable to continue with specialization based on the type of licensee.

"We changed it from program-centered to a functional organization," Ms. Engle said. "It allows me to focus on the strengths of my staff."

Under the new organization, consultants in the bureau will be assigned to licensing, training or complaint investigation for all childcare, adult foster care and child welfare facilities within their territory, instead of being required to conduct all of those tasks for one type of facility.

That change included not only shifting workload among the consultants, but also automating the reports they produce from relicensing and complaint inspections, saving time for consultants and allowing some of the licensing process to be shifted to clerical staff. The new database is now allowing those reports to be posted on the Internet.

Ms. Engle said the site,, as of Thursday contains a notice for any of the 39,000 licensees who have received a complaint in the last year, and any licensing or complaint reports generated for each licensee since July. She said the site would include at least one report for each licensee within three years.

"If you want to put a loved one in a facility ... you have far more information than you would have in the past and you have it immediately," Ms. Clark said.

When the bureau is back up to its new full strength of 235, down from 275, Ms. Engle said she actually plans to be able to increase inspections. While childcare facilities and adult foster care facilities are required to be inspected annually, home-based childcare providers are subject only to an initial inspection within 90 days of opening. After that, the law requires only 10 percent of the homes in each county to be inspected annually unless a complaint is filed.

Ms. Engle said she is hoping to assign one person at each of the 10 regional offices to inspecting the home-based childcare providers with the goal of inspecting each home annually.

The bureau is also working with the Michigan Public Health Institute to bring some of the training required of childcare centers to those providing the service from their homes.

The restructuring also will allow the bureau to concentrate on the regions where there are more complaints being filed, Ms. Engle said. The prior structure assigned certain consultants to certain facilities, and often complaints were not investigated until the assigned person could get to the task.

The bureau will now be assigning complaints to the first available investigator and will be shifting work around to ensure that no regional office is overloaded. She said complaints per provider for home childcare, group homes, adult foster care, private foster care placement centers, and homes for the aged. The maps on the Gongwer News Service Web site, provided by the department, show the dispersion of facilities and complaints.

Ms. Clark said the restructuring, among the more extensive changes resulting from the early retirements but also in planning stages before the early retirement plan was announced, was well timed even though it came at nearly the end of the Engler administration and the likely end of her short time as CIS director. "There's no bad time to do the right thing," she said. "We're going to help the next administration."

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