WASHINGTON - After a growing number of high-profile media reports of children who have died or been injured in child care, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday morning that it would for the first time impose tough national health and safety standards for all child-care facilities that accept government subsidies.
The proposed rules will require workers in all subsidized child-care centers and homes to be trained in first-aid procedures, such as CPR, and safe sleeping practices. They call for universal background checks and fingerprinting of child-care workers. And they impose tough standards for monitoring and inspections to ensure that the regulations are being followed. States would have to comply with the standards to receive the federal funds.
Although the new regulations apply only to the 513,000 child-care centers and family homes that accept subsidies for the 1.6 million children who receive them through the federal Child Care and Development Fund, HHS officials said the hope was that nonsubsidized centers would follow suit.
The new rules are "common sense" standards to both protect children and give parents more information to make informed decisions, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
President Obama has made early childhood development a key policy for his second term, pushing for millions to fund universal pre-K programs.
HHS officials said the administration was "adamant" about instituting new regulations.
The changes - subject to a 75-day comment period before taking effect - would supersede the current patchwork of health and safety standards that each state now sets and that critics have long argued are too low and endanger too many children. As many as one in five children who receive the child-care subsidy are in unlicensed and unregulated child-care settings with no health and safety requirements at all.