The Office of Early Childhood ensures that Arkansas children and families have access to a safe, high-quality, developmentally appropriate early-learning environment. The Office accomplishes this by educating and assisting parents; licensing, regulating, and supporting child care providers, and working with communities to prepare children for future success. It also works closely with the Early Childhood Commission.
The Division is comprised of five units.
- Child care licensing and accreditation – This unit performs on-site licensing reviews of child care centers in addition to licensed homes and registered homes to ensure compliance with state licensing regulations. This section is also responsible for maintaining the Criminal Records Check System (Act 1198 or 1997) in conjunction with the Arkansas State Police. This system checks the police record of all workers in child care centers or licensed homes.
- Compliance and integrity unit – This unit works with programmatic sections of the Division and other appropriate Divisions within the Department to coordinate and track issues dealing with provider fraud, overpayments and audits.
- Family support – Family support – This unit section supports services to Temporary Employment Assistance (TEA), transitional, low-income working families and foster care children by providing subsidized child care services on a sliding fee basis. It administers the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership. Child Care eligibility workers are located regionally across the state.
- Special nutrition – his unit administers programs funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These programs reimburse sponsors for meals and snacks served at approved feeding sites. The programs are the Child & Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program for Children, Special Milk and National School Lunch. Commodity Distribution within this unit orders, receives, stores, and distributes USDA foods in Arkansas.
- Program and professional development – This unit provides training and technical assistance to child care and early childhood education professionals/programs, families and DCCECE staff through a variety of professional development contracts; the Arkansas Birth through Pre-K Teaching Credential; the Arkansas Child Care Aware Network; the Professional Development Registry; and other services with the goal of improving the quality of care for all Arkansas children. This unit also includes Better Beginnings, a voluntary Tiered Quality Rating Improvement System in which licensed child care providers can receive tools, guidance, and training needed to ensure they are providing the best possible child care and early childhood education. Contact the Program and Professional Development Unit at 501-320-8906 for more information.