New child care requirements approved in Missouri

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | 2:53 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Unlicensed child care centers could become subject to new state oversight under legislation pending before Gov. Jay Nixon that would bring Missouri into compliance with new federal requirements.

The legislation would require state workers to conduct onsite visits of child-care facilities receiving state or federal funds to check for minimum health and safety standards. The visits would apply to both licensed and unlicensed facilities, including about 3,900 child care centers in homes, churches and schools that are not inspected by state child care regulators.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Missouri could lose more than $100 million in federal funding if it does not increase oversight by the fall of 2015 to comply with anticipated new federal standards.

The legislation marked a victory for child care advocates.

"Having someone to be able to come into a home or a facility and assess and help improve quality — it's going to change lives. It was a true win for kids," said Erin Brower of the Alliance for Education, one of several groups that lobbied for the new standards.

Missouri's subsidy program uses state and federal funds and paid out $149 million to child care facilities in 2013, of which $38 million went to unlicensed facilities.

Later this month, the federal Department of Health and Human Services is expected to finalize rules that demand more accountability of the child care facilities that accept federal funds. The bill approved by the Missouri legislature mirrors drafts of those federal rules.

Under the Missouri bill, child care facilities receiving state and federal subsidies through the Department of Social Services would be subject to monitoring visits. They also would be required to report serious injuries or deaths to the state and provide training for staff, which likely would include CPR and infant sleep safety.

The legislation also would require the development of quality indicators that parents could use to evaluate the safety and caliber of child care centers.

The Missouri legislation would take effect in October 2015 or six months after the implementation of the federal regulations, whichever occurs later.

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