Child care centers come under federal scrutiny

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on May 22, 2013 in Personal Injury

Statistically, very few children are seriously injured or die in child care centers. Parents in West Virginia can credit strict state regulations in part for the low injury and fatality rates. Parents in many other states cannot say the same, though: Their children's safety may be the result of nothing more than sheer dumb luck.

The federal government would like that to change, and that means an almost total overhaul of safety, health and program quality regulations to back up federal funding. Right now, parents trust about 1.6 million children in this country to federally subsidized child care centers without having a complete grasp of how those centers measure up.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will soon officially propose new rules that states will have to follow in order to receive federal funding. The department's goal is to increase accountability and improve transparency; parents should know that the government will only fund facilities that meet certain standards, and they should have access to information about facilities' safety inspections and regulatory compliance.

The new rules focus on children's safety from different angles. First, the department wants states to ensure that child care workers are appropriately vetted and trained. The proposal calls for criminal background checks and fingerprinting for employees, as well as for training in things like first aid, CPR and poison prevention. And, in an effort to minimize the risk of injury in car accident s, the proposal includes guidelines for transporting children.

Second, the department wants the states to ensure that the physical environment meets safety standards. The proposal calls for periodic in-person, unannounced site inspections, something that not every state has the manpower to do.

As far as program quality goes, the rules would require states to rate centers on curriculum and learning environment as well as health and safety criteria. Those ratings would need to be available to all parents in the state.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Feds Propose Child Care Center Safety Steps, Employee Background Checks," Kelli Kennedy, May 20, 2013

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