Child Care Quality, Minimum Ratio Standards, and Children's Safety

Child Care

A key indicator of the quality of child care centers is the child to caregiver ratio – the maximum number of children that one caregiver can be responsible for in a child care setting.

In Texas, ratio standards are established based on the age of children. For example, as shown in Table 1, for a group of two-year-old children, the maximum number that one caregiver may supervise is 11 children. If the number of children in the group exceeds that maximum, then the ratio standard has been violated.

Analysis of ratio data can help inform whether the State’s minimum ratio standards are adequate at keeping children safe.

Currently, the Child Care Licensing (CLL) division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services annually collects data and reports only if a child care center has violated the required ratio standard. However in June 2016, Collaborative for Children, Children’s Learning Institute, and the Child and Family Research Partnership worked with CLL to collect actual ratio data to understand the impact of child care ratios on child safety.

Preliminary analyses of the ratio data collected for the study show that when ALL classrooms in child care settings are better than the minimum standard, children are safer. Findings include:

  • Centers with ratios better than the minimum standard are significantly more likely to have zero supervision deficiencies and zero reports of serious or critical injuries.
  • Centers with ratios better than the minimum standard have significantly fewer serious incident reports on average, with centers who met or violated minimum standards having nearly twice the number of serious incident reports.
  • Centers with zero ratio violations have significantly fewer supervision deficiencies and fewer incident reports compared to centers with at least one ratio citation. Centers with at least one ratio citation have twice as many supervision deficiencies and about 80 percent more serious incident reports than do centers with zero ratio citations. See Figure 1.

These findings, though preliminary, suggest an important link between classroom ratios and children’s safety in child care centers. Additional data are necessary to fully support the link and to determine the ideal ratio; the ongoing collection of ratio data during licensing inspections is recommended.

For more about the study, see CFRP Policy Brief Child Care Ratios in Texas and Children’s Safety (B.025.0117).