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Early Learning System Director Steps Up Safety Improvements
Statement from Miriam Calderon, Early Learning System Director
The Early Learning Division has issued an emergency suspension of a licensed child care center related to the tragic death of an infant. This baby and their family are at the center of my thoughts and the beginning of my prayers, but we owe them more than that. Every Oregon family deserves immediate action and change.
The Governor has directed me to make child safety my top priority and to lead the Early Learning Division with a sense of urgency to fulfill our agency’s critical mission.
As the new director of the Early Learning Division, I am responsible for leading the agency to ensure young children and their families can learn and thrive. Safety is paramount. One thing is clear: We must act immediately and decisively whenever a tragedy like this happens. We and our partnering agencies must bring our full resources to bear to conduct timely and thorough investigations to ensure all children are safe.
My immediate focus is to strengthen the state’s child care licensing program. First, we must increase the number of unannounced inspections and accelerate enforcement action to ensure safety and quality in all licensed facilities. Today, Oregon’s caseloads for child care licensing staff are triple the industry best practice standards. I will increase the number of licensing specialists who perform safety inspections to ensure critically important child safety standards are being met.
Second, I am empowering the Division to work with partnering agencies to conduct a child fatality review every time there is a death in a licensed child care facility in Oregon. This will strengthen our ability to prevent fatalities and improve protections for all children.
Third, I will continue working with the Legislature to expand our authority to take and strengthen enforcement actions to protect children.
Fourth, Oregon’s training program has significantly increased access to education, but these resources only reach a fraction of child care providers. I will engage with all our partners to expand this program across the state and ensure providers have the access to training that ensures every child receives the highest quality of care.
Fifth, Governor Brown has directed the Early Learning Council to reverse its decision and to require state licensed child care facilities to undergo lead testing.
Lastly, we must step up our efforts to reach out and communicate with families. We have a responsibility to help parents understand what quality care looks like, assist them in knowing where to find it, and know whom to contact when something is wrong.
We must hold ourselves, our agency partners, and child care providers to the highest standards of care. We owe Oregon’s families a commitment to learn and improve. And, from the Early Learning Division, they will get nothing less.