Image: Screenshot
Image: Screenshot from Final Rule Fact Sheet

The Obama administration is making child care better and safer.

Thanks to a newly announced rule, some “370,000 child care settings across the country that participate in the federal child care program… will benefit from new health and safety requirements, staff training requirements, and criminal background checks for staff,” federal officials explain in a press release.

The new rules spring from bipartisan legislation that President Obama signed into law in 2014.

“Many parents rely on child care programs, and it is important that their children are cared for in safe learning environments with qualified providers,” according to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell.

“Child care is both an economic support for working parents and an early learning program for millions of children. It’s critical to our nation’s future that we get this right,” adds Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for Early Learning at the Administration for Children and Families.

To comply with this new rule, child care centers must meet a number of specific requirements, including:

• providing the workforce with ongoing training and professional development in a number of areas such as first aid and CPR, medication administration, and SIDS prevention

• providing parents with a website and other information that helps them choose child care programs

• increasing funding for improvements in quality, and

• ensuring annual monitoring of programs

Child care workers’ salaries are also getting attention. As U.S. News and World Report explains:

“Administration officials also used the announcement of the new rules to call on Congress to prioritize legislation that would bolster the early child education profession by making more money available for educator salaries. Currently, nearly half of child care workers are enrolled in at least one of four public support programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or the federal earned income tax credit.”

This important federal step forward brings welcome change. As a fact sheet on the rule says:

“Prior to the new law, health and safety standards varied widely across states and left critical gaps. The Act and this rule establish a baseline for health, safety, and quality to ensure children are adequately protected and are in nurturing environments that support their healthy growth and development.”

More information on the law and the rule is available here.