On an October 13 webinar, Groundwork Ohio, an early childhood advocacy organization, unveiled its report called Building the Way to a Healthier Future. The report is a tool to advocate for lead safe policies within child care facilities in Ohio across the United States. Lynanne Gutierrez, assistant director and legal counsel for Groundwork Ohio, facilitated the webinar and introduced Wyonette Cheairs, manager of the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition. Cheairs explained the background of the lead crisis in Cleveland that led to the report. Then, Gutierrez gave a quick overview, which included the negative health effects of lead, current lead safe policies both in Ohio and the United States, and policy recommendations. Some findings of this report are:
- Only nine states require child care facilities to be inspected by a lead risk assessor before becoming licensed. Ohio isn’t one of the states.
- In Ohio, all child care programs must have both safe equipment and environments.
- The Ohio Department of Health has a SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) Lead Abatement Program, which offers testing and removal of lead paint hazards. Homes are eligible to be remediated for families with children who receive Medicaid benefits.
- According to the report, individuals should utilize some policy recommendations when eliminating lead in child care settings:
- “Commit fully to the primary prevention of lead poisoning in child care settings.”
- “Build upon trusted relationships with child care professionals to educate them about the impact of lead exposure and lead poisoning prevention practices.”
- “Resource existing and new regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives to support lead-safe space for young children to learn.”
Later, Gutierrez moderated a panel discussion. Gabriella Celeste of Ohio Lead Free Kids Coalition, Ami Cole of Molina Healthcare, Katie Kelly of PRE4CLE, and Director LeeAnne Cornyn of Children’s Initiatives at the Office of Governor Mike DeWine highlighted some key points about resolving lead issues in child care facilities throughout Ohio. For instance, Cole emphasized that Molina Healthcare collaborated with the Corporation for Appalachian Development and offered an Innovation Lead Fund Grant for lead testing and abatement to child care providers. Cornyn and Governor Mike DeWine’s office gave a grant to the City of Cincinnati from their H2Ohio fund so that lead abatement can take place in child care facilities.
Child care providers are under-resourced and on average make $10.67 per hour.
Overall, the robust report and the webinar was very informative. Advocates can use the report to encourage state governments to invest more money in lead safe practices. However, it is imperative that child care providers, and families with children, become advocates as well because they are directly impacted by lead exposure. Most importantly, if people want to resolve the lead issue in child care settings, they must also consider tackling lead as an equity issue because child care providers are under-resourced and on average make $10.67 per hour. Another problem is some learning programs are placed in buildings that are not functional for child care (e.g. strip malls, limited windows for natural light, and small spaces for learning). If local and state legislators support lead safe practices throughout Ohio, then they should also make sure that child care facilities, and providers are adequately resourced to meet compliance demands. In general, a systems-thinking approach would help to end lead exposure in child care settings.