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DSS launches system to track time children spend in day care

TOTS expected to save millions, improve record-keeping, reduce fraud and safeguard children

The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services today announced that it will implement a new system to track the time children enrolled in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) spend with a child care provider.

Tracking of Time Services (TOTS) is an electronic time and attendance process that is expected to help keep children safe, cut down on fraud and provide efficient and more accurate payments to child care facilities.

"This new system is beneficial to parents, providers and taxpayers," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "The state and taxpayers will save money by only paying for the time a child actually spends in child care, parents get reassurance that the program electronically records who drops off and picks up a child every day, providing an increased security measure, and providers benefit from an automated process that produces faster payments."

Parents of children enrolled in CCAP, which provides assistance to help pay for child care while parents work or attend school or training, and parents and caregivers of children in OCS programs that pay for child care will be required to participate in TOTS. A pilot program kicks off in July in the Lafayette area and will expand statewide in August.

TOTS uses a finger imaging device and software. Parents and caregivers, or up to three household designees, will simply place a finger on the device, which measures physical characteristics and converts them into an identifying numeric code, to check the child into and out of care. Child care centers will only receive CCAP payments for children who are checked in and out of the center using the TOTS system.

"A finger scan is not a finger print," said Nichols. "Only the numeric code created from scanning the finger is kept on file and we will not share information with any other state or federal agency."

Parents, caregivers and household designees will be required to check each child into and out of child care each day, adding an additional measure of ensuring that only those authorized to pick up a child from a care center do so.

Finger imaging devices will be installed at all Class A child care centers, all Class M child care centers licensed by the Department of Defense and family child day care homes that accept CCAP payment.

School child care programs and care provided in the child's home will use an Interactive Voice Response to track children's attendance. Parents will use the Interactive Voice Response to check the child in out and out of care via a dedicated phone line.

All finger imaging devices will be provided and installed at no cost to child care centers, but centers will need a phone line and Internet connection. Programs using the Interactive Voice Response system will need a phone line.

TOTS will allow DSS to pay CCAP invoices weekly, instead of the current monthly schedule, resulting in prompter payments to providers. Additionally, all attendance will be submitted to DSS electronically and child care providers will no longer be required to submit paper invoices, reducing the chance of fraud.

In May, meetings to inform child care providers about how TOTS will work will be held in Lafayette, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Thibodaux, the Northshore and New Orleans. Multiple meetings are scheduled in each area. The schedule can be found on the DSS website under Child Care Updates. Providers also will be receiving a letter shortly.

Parents and caregivers required to participate in TOTS have been sent an initial letter describing the process and will receive more information as the program moves closer to its start date.

Funding for TOTS comes from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment act. The initiative is expected to cost $13 million over five years and reap much more than that in savings.

"The only state currently operating a similar time and attendance tracking program is Oklahoma and that state saved $10 million in the first year," said Nichols. "We expect to see similar results in Louisiana."

Louisiana hopes to use its savings from TOTS for other programs that serve children and families.

From July 2008 to June 2009, more than 39,000 Louisiana children participated in CCAP each month, and payments to child care providers totaled $112.2 million for the twelve month period.

Texas and Indiana also are in the process of implementing time tracking programs. Both of those states and Oklahoma require parents to use a card swipe program to check children in and out of care.

"Louisiana is the only state that uses a biometric finger scan, which will produce more reliable results," said Nichols. "Our program will not require parents to remember to bring anything additional like a card to their child care center and will ensure that only people authorized to check children in and out of care are doing so."

More about the TOTS program can be found on the TOTS webpage of the DSS website.

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