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Child care centers licensing standards in the United States from 1981 to 2023


Over the past thirty years, there have been notable changes in child care ratios and group sizes. Child care ratios refer to the number of children one caregiver is responsible for, while group size refers to the total number of children in a classroom at an early care and education setting. The current analysis examines the current licensing requirements in every state and the District of Columbia and compares those requirements to the numbers from 1981 and 1995. Furthermore, the manuscript examines the progress made by different states regarding states’ compliance with NAEYC’s recommended child-to-staff ratio and maximum group size. In the 1990s, child care ratios were less regulated, resulting in higher group sizes and fewer caregivers per child. However, research on child development and safety concerns led to increased regulations and lower childcare ratios. As a result, group sizes have decreased, and there are now more caregivers per child in early care and education settings. These changes have been beneficial for children, as they allow for more individual attention and care. Additionally, they have led to safer environments for children and reduced the risk of accidents and injuries. Despite these improvements, there is still room for further progress in ensuring high-quality childcare for all children, especially in the remaining states that continue to allow high ratios and large group sizes. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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