There have been a few more turns to the child care safety legislation after the conclusion of the GA session. After the legislature passed the omnibus bill, the Governor proposed an amendment to extend the method of fingerprint background checks to all providers, including those exempt from licensure. This amendment failed in the GA, with the acknowledgement that the federal government is expecting compliance on this issue and it will need to be revisited. On May 1st, Governor McAuliffe announced that he signed the child care safety legislation as passed by the General Assembly (see detail below). The most significant changes are not scheduled to go into effect until 2016 or later.
We hoped that final result would be clear victory– from this point forward kids will be safer in child care. With the momentum of the high profile of this issue, pending federal changes, and a strong team of advocates, partners, and parents we had hoped for a home run. However, instead of a home run, the final legislation in more along the lines of a base hit.
Did we progress this year? Yes! Did we change the status quo? Yes! Did we get a clear victory? No, but we have a bi-partisan group of legislators to thank for progress.
Are kids in child care safer now? Well, hopefully… The lower threshold and fingerprint checks will help ensure more kids are safe but with the limited implementation it remains to be seen how many children will be impacted by these changes.
Here is what is in the final legislation (HB1570/SB1688 Conference Report)
– Home day care licensure threshold reduced from 6 to 5 kids. This change is movement in the right direction. Going forward, more home-based day care providers will be required to have minimum training, emergency plans and monitoring visits. Since we had hoped to lower the threshold for licensure to 1 unrelated child (or even where the majority of states are at 3 or fewer children) this change does not go as far as we would have liked, but it does go in the right direction. This change would be implemented July 1, 2016 allowing DSS time to educate providers on the new requirements for licensure.
– National fingerprint background check– The compromise recommended fingerprint background check only for LICENSED child care program. This is potentially problematic for several reasons, but most importantly because it puts Virginia out of compliance with the new federal regulations that require all providers who have a background check (including those voluntarily registered and religious exempt) to be fingerprinted. Changes to the background check process would go into effect July 1, 2017 so we hope there is still time to get this right.
– State license not required for subsidy, but providers must meet federal minimum standards, including an annual monitoring inspection- The Governor had proposed that any provider accepting child care subsidies have a state license. State licensing standards are close to the newly adopted federal minimum standards, but rather than support this approach, the legislature supported requiring providers to meet the new federal minimum standards. This change would be implemented July 1, 2016 allowing time educate families and providers on the new requirements for subsidy.
– Report local business licenses to DSS every 6 months– Local Commissioners of Revenue must report to DSS any local business licenses granted for child care facilities every 6 months.
– Notice to parents when operating without a license- Any unlicensed provider must give notice to parents in writing of their unlicensed status. DSS must maintain a website explaining the differences in licensed vs. unlicensed care.
– DSS must make a recommendation for penalties for non compliance.
– Adds crimes listed on the sex offender registry as barrier crimes for operating a family day home.
In addition, over $17 million of federal child care and development block grant funds were held in reserve to implement these changes to the child care system. While fortunate that funds were available for this purpose, we hope that there will be a push to ensure accountability of these funds moving forward to improve access to affordable and high-quality child care.
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