The top 10 violations recorded in Texas childcare centers last year

And how anyone can use these lessons to improve their own practice
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June 17, 2024
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In a rush? Here's the quick run-down.

  • We’re looking at the top 10 ‘deficiencies’ recorded in Texas child care centers in 2022. Here, ‘deficiencies’ mean violations of the state’s child care regulations.
  • This data is relevant beyond Texas. Viewed more broadly, it reflects key areas where child care providers often fall short of safety and regulatory standards.
  • Read on to explore the 10 most common violations, and how to avoid them.

Each year, Texas Health and Human Services (which regulates child care in the state) publishes data on the top ‘deficiencies’ recorded among Texan child care providers.

As they define it, a ‘deficiency’ is a violation of child care regulatory standards. All those standards are laid out in this big document, which is formally known as chapter 746 of the Texas Administrative Code. In essence, the most common deficiencies reflect the biggest areas where child care centers are falling short of key standards like safety, wellbeing and hygiene.

But even if you’re not based in Texas, this data can still help you.

Why this data is bigger than Texas

These same deficiencies could happen at a childcare center anywhere else in the US, even if they aren’t registered and presented in the same way Texas does. But because no nationwide organization exists to enforce and record these sorts of infractions for ECE across the whole country, we’ve got to take our data one state at a time.

It’s worth reflecting on how this lines up with your own practice: would your childcare center be at risk of any of these deficiencies?

This information was sourced from the Texas Health and Human Services’ Child Day Care Licensing Data Book, which is accessible online here. Here, we’re specifically looking at the data for licensed, center-based child care. For each point below, we’ll also link to where these rules are written in the state’s administrative code.

Now let’s take a look at what the data tells us.

1. Falling short of standards for treating children in our care

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 1,073
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.1203(4)

The most common deficiency was for childcare providers falling short of minimum standards for how we treat and supervise children in our care. This is a broad category: as listed in the administrative code, a deficiency here can include anything from addressing children with a negative attitude to physical abuse. You can read more about this on page 76 of the document linked above.

Without more granular data on the nature of these 1,000+ recorded infractions, it’s hard to recommend a one-size-fits-all fix here. But with this violation topping the list, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about how we regard children, and how that shapes the way we treat them. That’s where the Pikler Approach, and its foundational respect for children, becomes relevant.

2. Violating protocol for background checks of ECE staff

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 959
  • Relevant administrative code: 745.641

When licensed childcare centers in Texas hire new staff, the state requires that the new hire passes a background check before starting work.

Corey Garza, a Child Care Regulation Program Specialist with Texas Health and Human Services (HHS), explains that these deficiencies largely stem from those new hires beginning work before they get the background check results back. 

“For the most part some operations will allow a caregiver with children that has not fully passed all background checks,” he writes in an email.

3. Not keeping a proper fire safety certification on hand

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 662
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.5101(a)

Texas HHS requires licensed childcare centers to conduct annual fire safety inspections, and keep up-to-date certification of this. However, “city and county fire marshals will get backlogged causing a delay at times,” explains Corey Garza. This can make it tough for childcare providers to get their inspections and certifications done on time, if they don’t request them with enough advance notice.

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4. Violating staff-to-children ratios

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 640
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.1601

The fourth most common violation recorded in 2022 was for providers failing to maintain Texas’ rules for staff-to-child ratios in licensed childcare centers. Put simply, it was common for Texas regulators to find that centers were understaffed for their number of children. These ratios vary on a state-to-state basis, but you can find ratio guidelines for Texas on page 105 of the document linked above.

5. Improper maintenance of building, grounds and equipment

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 553
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.3407

This is a broad category, encompassing everything from sanitizing toys after children have had them in their mouths to pest control and HVAC systems. You can find the Texas’ HHS full list of potential ‘deficiency’ areas on page 183 of the linked document, but their data doesn’t specify which of these were most common among childcare providers.

If equipment upkeep is a focus area for you, you might want to download our playground maintenance checklist to use at your program.

6. Not showing good judgment or self-control around children

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 549
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.1201(1)

The administrative code relevant to this one states that educators must “Demonstrate competency, good judgment, and self-control in the presence of children and when performing assigned responsibilities.” This is another broad category, and the violations varied in each circumstance, Corey Garza explains. “It’s not really a common situation, but an example would be a caregiver not making a good decision in a situation that causes serious injury to a child,” he writes.

Children’s safety is key, obviously. But what’s the difference between a risk and a hazard? You can read more about that right here.

7. Having environmental hazards in your childcare center

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 457
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.3701

In common terms, you might consider this one to be about “child-proofing”: keeping electrical outlets out of reach, not having potentially toxic plants in the room, and making sure play materials are free from sharp edges and toxic paints. 

A full list of 10 common examples is available on page 201 of the administrative code itself, and Corey Garza notes that each recorded deficiency notes the specific shortcoming found within that childcare center.

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8. Improper documentation of children’s health and immunization records

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 423
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.603(a)(4)

Among other record-keeping requirements, Texas HHS mandates that licensed childcare facilities document the immunization records of the children in their care.This deficiency, then, reflects a failure to keep those required records on hand.

Childcare management software can make this sort of record keeping a lot faster and easier. If this might be relevant for you, you can see how Famly can help you here.

9. Failing to document (or pass) an annual sanitation inspection

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 396
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.3401(a)

This one might be misinterpreted to suggest that a lot of licensed Texas childcare facilities are distinctly unsanitary, but that’s not the case. Much more often, this deficiency popped up when providers simply failed to provide proper documentation, or to book an inspection from their local health services. The relevant authority in charge of these inspections (and the rules they use) depends on the city or county where the provider is located, Corey explains.

10. Not updating feeding instructions for infants

  • Deficiencies recorded in 2022: 395
  • Relevant administrative code: 746.2421(b)

Texas administrative code requires that licensed providers “must review and update the feeding instructions with the parent every 30 days until the infant is able to eat table food.” This deficiency popped up when childcare programs failed to hold those frequent check-ins with parents and caregivers at home.

If you’re running into issues with parent communication and partnerships, Famly’s can help you there too. We’ve got a whole (free!) guide about that, available for download here.

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Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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