Feds to boost child care center monitoring and employee background checks

The federal government will propose today an overhaul of federally funded child care centers in the United States. Their to-do list includes strengthening safety standards and getting states to inspect facilities unannounced.

Associated Press
Johnathan Lara, an employee of the child care center at the California Family Fitness center, plays with a toddler a the center in Sacramento, Calif., in April.

Federal health officials say they will propose Thursday to overhaul federally funded child care centers across the country, beefing up safety standards including background and fingerprint checks for employees and requiring states to better monitor the facilities.

Roughly 1.6 million US children attend child care centers on subsidies from the federal government. But health, safety, and program quality requirements for those facilities vary widely and states monitor them through a patchwork of rules, according to three senior administration officials, who spoke about the proposed rules to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before Thursday's scheduled announcement.

The proposed changes are part of a broader agenda by President Barack Obama to ensure health and safety across all early learning environments and to improve the quality of facilities and their workers to prepare children for kindergarten.

US Department of Health and Human Services officials said the rules would increase accountability among child care providers and improve transparency so parents know more about the facility their child is attending. States would have to comply with the standards to receive the federal funds.

Workers would undergo fingerprinting and background checks and be required to receive training in first aid, CPR, safe sleeping for babies, and poison prevention, the officials said. The proposal also would set guidelines for transporting children in an effort to reduce the number of deaths of children left in cars.

States also would be required to conduct unannounced, in-person inspections at each child care center. States vary widely on how they monitor child care centers, with some allowing self-certification for facilities to check off on a mailed-in form whether they have smoke detectors and safety plans. That wouldn't fly under the new rule, the officials said.

Many parents mistakenly think their child care facilities are already following these measures, and the officials said they want to better inform families about facilities' track records. The proposed rules would require all states to post licensing, health, and safety inspection records online in plain language. About 30 states already do so, officials said.

The rules also would require all states to use a rating system for quality issues, including curriculum and learning environment. About half the states already use such a system.

Accessibility to government-funded child care also is addressed. The proposal would encourage states to give more flexibility to families and to address care for children while unemployed parents look for work.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.