Overview of the Department of Early Education and Care

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Department of Early Education and Care.

Table of Contents

Overview

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), established July 1, 2005 by Chapter 205 of the Acts of 2004, is responsible for licensing childcare providers and providing financial assistance for childcare services for low-income families, parenting support for families, and professional development opportunities for employees in the field of early education and care. According to its website, EEC’s mission is “to support the healthy growth and development of all children by providing high quality programs and resources for families and communities.”

EEC licenses approximately 9,000 childcare-related programs. It supports an average of 55,000 children daily. EEC’s licensees include foster care and adoption placement agencies, informal and formal programs for children, and residential programs.

EEC has five regional offices across Massachusetts, located at 1441 Main Street in Springfield (western region), 324-R Clark Street in Worcester (central region), 360 Merrimack Street in Lawrence (northeast region), One Washington Street in Taunton (southeast region), and 1250 Hancock Street in Quincy (Boston metropolitan region). The regional offices are overseen by EEC’s main office, located at 51 Sleeper Street in Boston.

As of June 30, 2018, EEC had a total of 174 employees. It had state appropriations of $556 million in fiscal year 2017 and $576.8 million in fiscal year 2018, as well as federal grant appropriations of $23.1 million in fiscal year 2017 and $16.3 million in fiscal year 2018.

Residential Programs

EEC licenses two types of residential programs—group care programs and temporary shelters—which are privately owned and not operated or funded by EEC.

Group care programs provide care for adolescents and young adults (residents) on a 24-hour residential basis for periods longer than 45 days. Services provided are intended to help residents achieve independent living and provide treatment for residents with mental health issues, behavioral issues, developmental disorders, or previous traumas.

Temporary shelters provide care for residents under the age of 18 for periods of no more than 45 days or no more than 90 days in Department of Youth Services facilities. Placement in a temporary shelter can be requested by a parent, a child, a placement agency, law enforcement, or a court order.

During the audit period, there were 428 licensed residential programs (354 group care programs and 74 temporary shelters). The standards and requirements for residential program licensure are defined in Section 1 of Title 102, and Section 3 of Title 606, of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. EEC’s team of 11 licensors is responsible for, among other things, the licensing of all residential programs and placement agencies throughout the Commonwealth. These programs and agencies are operated or funded by the Department of Youth Services, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Department of Mental Health. To gain licensure for a residential program, a prospective licensee must submit an application and fee to EEC. EEC determines whether the care to be given in the program will protect the health and safety of the residents and conducts a background record check (BRC) to ensure that the applicant is suitable to provide such care.

EEC requires BRCs of all candidates for licensure, employment, internships, or regular volunteer positions who might have unsupervised access to the children in their care, including a Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information check, a check of the Registry of Alleged Perpetrators2 and the DCF Central Registry,3 a Sex Offender Registry Information check, and fingerprint-based checks of state and national criminal history databases. These BRCs are performed to protect the residents of group care programs.

Before issuing an initial group care program license, or as part of the license renewal process, an EEC licensor visits the program’s facility to evaluate the program’s compliance with various licensing requirements. On September 27, 2017, EEC implemented a new licensing model, referred to as differential licensing, which replaced its outgoing model, referred to as residential and placement licensing. During our audit, EEC could not provide us with documented policies or procedures for the outgoing model.

According to EEC management, the outgoing model required licensing site visits at license issuance and renewal. Additional licensing site visits were only required for licensing changes, such as changes to the number of residents allowed or the population served (e.g., male residents, female residents, or residents with behavioral or developmental issues).

According to EEC management, the differential licensing model was developed to more efficiently ensure the health and safety of the residents in programs licensed by EEC. The primary change that the model implemented was the addition of a requirement for annual monitoring visits to be conducted within 10 to 14 months after a program’s last licensing site visit. The content of these monitoring visits is based on factors such as program compliance history and associated risk level. Although this model was introduced during the audit period, the requirements for the outgoing model still applied for our testing purposes because of the timing of the implementation. Group care programs were not subject to the differential licensing model until after the first licensing renewal that occurred after September 27, 2017. Therefore, the new annual monitoring requirement would not have been applicable until after the audit period.

Section 9 of Chapter 15D of the Massachusetts General Laws grants EEC the authority to inspect programs it licenses to determine whether they comply with associated laws and regulations. When program noncompliance is identified, EEC documents its observations and indicates which regulation/s the program violated. When regulations have been violated, EEC requires programs to submit corrective action plans within 14 days, detailing how, when, and by whom corrective action has been or will be taken. EEC is then required to determine whether the licensee came into compliance by visiting the program, reviewing documentation, or verifying compliance through any other available means.

Process for Notifying EEC of Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect

Whenever a mandated reporter4 has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse or neglect, s/he is required by Section 51A(a) of Chapter 119 of the General Laws to notify DCF immediately. DCF, in turn, completes a report of child abuse/neglect (known as a 51A report) and is required to share information with certain institutions. When 51A reports are filed regarding children in EEC-licensed residential programs, DCF notifies EEC, pursuant to DCF’s Policy 85-005, “51A Investigations in Certain Institutional Settings Policy.” DCF does this by emailing the 51A reports to EEC’s deputy commissioner for field investigations and associate commissioner for field investigations. The 51A reports sent to EEC are filed in a folder in the associate commissioner for field investigations’ email account. If a report is considered to have merit, DCF conducts a 51B investigation, which is an investigation conducted pursuant to Section 51B of Chapter 119 of the General Laws. If DCF determines, as a result of this investigation, that the child is or has been abused or neglected, the 51A report is considered supported, or substantiated.

According to EEC’s written response to this audit report,

If an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child placed at an EEC licensed program or during program activities is substantiated or supported by DCF following an investigation conducted pursuant to M.G.L. c. 119, § 51B, DCF provides the investigation report, commonly referred to as a “51B Report” to EEC to further assist in the investigation of the incident related to the EEC licensed program.

Upon receipt of any 51A Report or 51B Report from DCF, EEC must first determine if allegations contained in the reports impact children participating in EEC licensed programs. EEC’s authority to investigate alleged incidents of abuse or neglect of children in the Commonwealth is limited to the domain of the licensed program, ensuring full compliance with all relevant state and federal laws and regulation. EEC is not responsible for the investigation of individuals reported in a “51A” or “51B” Report. EEC does not evaluate or investigate “51A” or “51B” Reports outside of its jurisdiction, as determined by statute and regulation.

Licensing Education Analytical Database

The Licensing Education Analytical Database (LEAD) is a platform that EEC’s staff and licensed programs use to conduct licensing transactions. LEAD contains a comprehensive history of data about residential programs, including site visits, noncompliance, corrective action reports, incidents and complaints, BRCs, and records pertaining to investigations. LEAD replaced EEC’s legacy licensing system, Licensing Manager 2010, and its legacy incident and complaint tracking system, Early Education and Care Resolution System. Implementation took place in three phases. Phase 1 was implemented on June 27, 2016 and enabled licensors to access LEAD on mobile devices during site visits, receive and review reported incidents, and document investigation activities. It also enabled them to view information about their programs, such as license expiration, and access and respond to statements of noncompliance. Phase 2 was implemented on September 27, 2017 and consisted of a combination of improvements to previous functions and changes in support of various differential licensing business rules. Phase 3 was implemented on June 25, 2018 and enabled programs to apply for licenses and complete licensing transactions. Although Phases 2 and 3 were implemented during our audit period, the associated activities had no effect on our audit.

2.     According to the version of Section 14 of Title 606 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations that was effective through September 30, 2018, “a person shall be included in the Registry of Alleged Perpetrators if the allegations of abuse or neglect of a child were supported in an M.G.L. c. 119, § 51B Investigation Report, the report was referred to the district attorney, and there is substantial evidence indicating that the alleged perpetrator was responsible for the abuse or neglect.”

3.     In the version of Section 14 of Title 606 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations that was effective through September 30, 2018, the DCF Central Registry is defined as follows: “A DCF registry of information sufficient to identify children whose names are reported to DCF pursuant to M.G.L. c. 119, §§ 51A and 51B. The Central Registry also contains information on the parent(s) of the identified children, the identity of the person identified as responsible for the alleged abuse or neglect of the identified child, the nature of the allegations, the outcome of the 51A screening process, and the outcome of the 51B investigation.”

4.     Mandated reporters are obligated to report suspected abuse and/or neglect. They include medical doctors, schoolteachers, police officers, school administrators, and guidance counselors. For a full definition, see Section 21 of Chapter 119 of the General Laws.

 

Date published: May 5, 2020
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