Voices’ Blog

Ensure that all young children can learn, grow, and thrive in safe child care– Support the Governor’s Amendments to SB1239

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

If you recall from my last post, there was still some uncertainty about the meaning and interpretation of Sen. Hanger’s SB1239, improving safety in license-exempt child care. Because of this uncertainty, the Governor made amendments to the legislation. These changes will go back to the Senate and House to consider on April 5th at the Reconvened (or Veto) Session.

The Governor’s amendments strengthen the bill from the Conference Report and restore some provisions that were removed in that version. It is very close to the recommendations of the license-exempt workgroup, and the version of the bill that passed the Senate 38-2. The Governor’s amendments improve on the Conference Report by maintaining our religious-exempt code section while adding the safety precautions recommended by the workgroup. By maintaining the religious-exempt code section, HB1568/SB897, which have been approved by the Governor, would apply to religious-exempt programs requiring their staff to have fingerprint background checks.

Support of the bill would improve safety in all license-exempt care by establishing safety precautions such as CPR certification for staff, compliance with safe sleep guidelines, reporting serious injuries and deaths and an inspection process determined by the VA Department of Social Services. The amendments offer some compromises for some groups that had concerns. The child:adult ratios at religious-exempt centers were revised to add some flexibility. And an enactment provision was added to analyze if Parks & Recs programs should continue to meet the expectations of minimal safety requirements.

We are asking the members of the Senate and House of Delegates to support the Governor’s amendments to SB1239 at the Reconvened Session on April 5th. Please send an email to your Delegate and Senator asking that they support the Governor’s amendments.

With the Governor’s Amendments to SB1239:

  • Religious-exempt programs will maintain their unique religious-exempt status but improve their safety by meeting new safety precautions and fingerprint background checks for staff. It will improve the safety of care by establishing minimum protections for safe sleep, CPR and reporting injuries. There will be a new inspection requirement determined by VDSS based on available resources. However, by maintaining a license-exempt status they are not subject to meet staff qualification requirements, physical plant requirements, or other administrative measures. There is a small change to the adult:child ratios for religious exempt that aligns with the amendment requested by some religious-exempt programs.
  • Certified Preschools fall under a revised code section in HB1837 that expands the certified preschool exemption slightly. These programs are still subject to fingerprint checks and accreditation standards.
  • Come & Go, Short-term Camps & Child Minding in Gyms will, for the first time, file with VDSS and have safety requirements such as CPR, safe sleep, and reporting of injuries. They can be inspected by VDSS as determined by available resources.
  • Local Government Parks & Rec and School-based Before and After-Schools will file with the Commissioner of Social Services, report injuries or deaths, and post their licensed status in a visible location. An enactment clause asks VDSS to analyze whether they should still be subject to the requirements and make a report by December 2018.
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