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Are states meeting their childcare inspection deadlines?

Across 41 states, one in ten licensed daycare facilities is overdue for an inspection

Every year in the United States, millions of parents send their children to formal childcare centers or local family facilities.

To enforce safety standards, each state has their own system to license these facilities. Routine inspections, conducted by state or local government bodies, play a role in confirming adherence to state guidelines. These inspections occur at varying frequencies, depending on individual state regulations.

Notably, around 43% of these inspection rounds[1] uncover compliance issues. These issues can range widely in severity and may include anything from outdated paperwork to hazardous materials to too few supervisors to safely monitor the number of children present.

According to data compiled by USAFacts from over 148,000 childcare facilities across 41 states,[2] one in ten licensed facilities are overdue for an inspection.

One in ten licensed childcare facilities across 41 states are overdue for an inspection

Based on inspection data reported by each state. Represents 140,000 facilities with reported inspection dates.

Inspection is on time

Inspection is overdue

States set their own inspection schedules, resulting in varying definitions of when facilities are overdue for an inspection. Among the 41 states in our dataset, only New York and California require inspections less frequently than once per year. The remaining states require annual or more frequent inspections.

Across the 23 states that require annual inspections, around 10,000 facilities are overdue. Of those, approximately 2,500 – 4% of all facilities in those states – haven’t been inspected in 2 years or longer.

California stipulates that an inspection occurs at least once every three years. Yet, at the time of writing, over 2,300 licensed childcare facilities, or 10% of operating facilities in the state, have not been inspected since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic three and a half years ago. This lag in inspections may be due to the state suspending inspections from March 18, 2020, to June 1, 2021, as a pandemic precaution.

Are childcare facilities inspected at the regulated rate for each state?

State legislation dictates how often inspections should be conducted. Tennessee has the shortest time between inspections, requiring them to occur quarterly — or approximately every 90 days.

New York, on the other hand, requires 50% of their facilities to be inspected each year – roughly one inspection every two years. California allows the longest time to pass between inspections, requiring only that they occur at least once every three years.

Regardless of the legislation, some states are more successful than others at inspecting facilities on time. Eighteen of the 41 states in our dataset were able to inspect 90% or more of their facilities within their legislated time frame.

Not all states inspect the majority of their childcare facilities as frequently as regulations require

Idaho 46%34%21%annually 2,250
Washington 51%42%7%annually 5,250
Louisiana 57%32%10%annually 1,311
Maryland 61%30%8%annually 6,571
New Mexico 63%2%35%annually 2,901
North Dakota 67%12%20%2x per year 1,058
Connecticut 69%6%24%annually 572
Tennessee 72%27%0%4x per year 2,319
Alaska 77%15%8%2x per year 434
Rhode Island 78%16%6%annually 824
California 79%10%11%every 3 years 25,186
Georgia 80%20%0%2x per year 3,821
Montana 83%4%13%annually 1,014
New Jersey 83%14%2%annually 2,539
South Dakota 84%16%0%annually 647
Minnesota 85%9%6%annually 7,781
South Carolina 85%8%7%annually 2,253
Iowa 86%13%1%annually 3,535
Maine 87%9%4%annually 1,544
Oregon 87%13%0%2x per year 3,553
Virginia 88%12%0%2x per year 3,976
Kentucky 88%11%0%annually 1,686
Wisconsin 89%7%4%annually 3,741
Michigan 90%9%1%annually 7,897
Mississippi 90%8%2%2x per year 1,641
Arizona 91%9%0%annually 2,560
Nevada 92%0%7%annually 414
Alabama 93%6%2%annually 3,956
Wyoming 93%7%0%2x per year 566
Delaware 93%5%1%annually 908
New York 94%0%6%every other year 12,446
Vermont 94%3%3%annually 1,073
Arkansas 96%0%4%annually 1,624
Missouri 96%1%2%annually 2,448
Ohio 97%0%2%annually 6,339
Oklahoma 97%2%0%2x per year 2,496
Colorado 98%1%1%annually 1,375
Indiana 99%1%0%annually 2,843
Texas 100%0%0%annually 9,628
North Carolina 100%0%0%annually 3,902
Utah 100%0%0%annually 1,284

Some states include large numbers of facility records in their public-facing search tools that don't specify any inspection history. For instance, out of the 2,901 open, licensed facilities in New Mexico’s public portal, 35% had no inspection history listed.

Are childcare facilities inspected at the regulated rate for each county?

In some states, the frequency of inspection can vary widely between counties. For instance, California’s San Francisco and San Joaquin counties have similar numbers of facilities that need to be inspected (594 and 552, respectively.) But, 91% of facilities in San Francisco were inspected on time compared to just 65% of San Joaquin facilities.

In some states, the percentage of childcare facilities overdue for inspection varies widely between counties

no facilities inspected on time
all facilities inspected on time

When was my childcare facility last inspected?

The information provided in this article outlines inspection frequency for licensed childcare facilities in 41 states between late June and October, 2023. Despite our comprehensive approach, inspections are an ongoing daily practice throughout the country.

For the most recent facility insights, including the date of the latest inspection for individual facilities, use your state's search tool:

Sources & Footnotes

    • All data was programmatically collected using Microsoft Playwright and other tools between June 22 and October 16, 2023. This data was collected directly from publicly-available, state-level search tools and thus is only as complete and accurate as those tools at the time of data collection.
    • Any calculations of “time since the last inspection” were based on the difference in days between the last inspection date and the day the data was collected for that state.
    • Information about what constitutes a facility that is overdue for inspection is based on information publicly available from each government agency on required inspection frequency. For California and Oklahoma where information was either unavailable or inconsistently reported, values were verified directly with the department.
    • Facilities that are overdue for an inspection were calculated on a rolling basis (i.e., in the past 365 days instead of a calendar year) based on data limitations. For states where more than one inspection is required per year, we operate under the assumption that these inspections should be evenly spaced throughout the year (i.e., twice per year is the same as once every 6 months). Based on our analysis of the available data, we don’t believe this should have a substantial impact on the number of facilities that are overdue for an inspection.
    • Some states’ legislation allowed for a range of times between inspections. For instance, Oklahoma facilities open year-round are inspected three times per year, while those that are closed in the summers are inspected twice per year. Here, we report the least frequent requirement. For Oklahoma, that is twice per year.
    • While we did attempt to gather data from the publicly available tools for Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania their websites prevented us from doing so. We subsequently submitted public records requests to each state but were also unable to acquire the necessary data this way.