State focuses on child care safety with new law

Published 1:26 pm Saturday, May 30, 2015

Surrounded by a number of state legislators, child care advocates and parents and grandparents of infants who died in unlicensed child care, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday morning signed the Child Care Safety Act. This requires fingerprint-based background checks for in-home child care providers and reduces the licensing threshold from six unrelated children to five.

Additionally, homes without a license must disclose in writing that they are unlicensed, and can only care for up to four unrelated children

“The new law is a good first step toward child care safety in Virginia,” said Executive Director of Child Care Awareness Sharon Veatch. “But, we have a problem with unlicensed care in our state and more needs to be done to protect children.”

The Washington Post reports that at least 54 children, mostly infants and toddlers, have died in unlicensed care in Virginia; nine of those children have died in unregulated day care homes in the last year alone.

Over the past decade, the newspaper reports that 51 children died at unlicensed homes, compared to 18 child deaths in regulated facilities.

“We know that we can prevent these types of tragedies,” Veatch said. “While the measure signed today is a step in the right direction, we will be working with the Governor and the legislature in the next session to build on this legislation.”

As it stands, though, Virginia remains non-complaint with a federal law enacted by Congress in November, requiring fingerprint checks for all categories of child care.

“If we don’t fix the law next year, Virginia will lose at least $5 million annually until the state comes into compliance,” she said. “The legislation signed today is progress … We can and should do more to protect children, and next year, we’ll be back.

“Children should be safe in child care. It’s that simple.”