May 17, 2013: The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) "helping to answer President Obama's call to ensure quality early education for every American child," announced yesterday that it is proposing to require "states, territories, and tribes" to "strengthen their standards to promote the health, safety and school readiness of children in federally funded child care." The 199-page PDF of the proposed new rules can be read here. The announcement, the first nationwide safety standards for child care -- that will supersede "the current patchwork of health and safety standards" of individual states, and that will apply to all childcare facilities that accept government subsidies, was described by the Brigid Schulte in the Washington Post:
The proposed regulations will require workers in all subsidized child-care centers and homes to be trained in first-aid procedures, such as CPR, and safe sleeping practices. They call for quality-rating systems that parents can have easy access to and universal background and fingerprint checks of child-care workers. And they impose tough standards for monitoring and unannounced inspections to ensure that the regulations are being followed.
Specifically, from the HHS press release:
The proposed rule would only apply directly to child care providers who accept Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) funds. More than 500,000 providers serve about 1.6 million low-income children through CCDF. Many more children would benefit, however, because the providers also serve non-CCDF children.
Under the proposed rule, states would require that all CCDF-funded child care providers:
- Receive health and safety trainings in specific areas
- Comply with applicable state and local fire, health and building codes
- Receive comprehensive background checks (including fingerprinting)
- Receive on-site monitoring
Schulte quotes HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, above left, who made yesterday's announcement, "“We frankly can’t wait any longer...Fifteen years have passed since we last updated our child-care rules — years of tragic stories of children lost and families devastated because there were no safety standards in place to protect them. We have a sacred responsibility to care for our children..."
On EdWeek, Sara Mead posts in her "Policy Notebook": ...[The Obama Administration is] aggressively interpreting the boundaries of its executive authority in an effort to fix problems in a major piece of underlying legislation that Congress is long overdue to reauthorize. In this case, that legislation is the [Child Care and Development Block Grant] Act and Section 418 of the Social Security Act. CCDBG was last reauthorized as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996--aka welfare reform--and subsequent efforts to reauthorize the law have stalled. The proposed regulation is now open for a 75-day public comment period, which may result in revisions to the proposed rules. In any case, smart folks should keep an eye on this for both its early childhood implications and as a reflection of how the administration is dealing with the larger context in Washington today.