Millions of working U.S. parents depend on child care and assume safety requirements are in place, but standards vary widely, a U.S. official says.
"Many children already benefit from the excellent care of high-quality child care providers who are meeting or exceeding the proposed requirements," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary health and human services, said in a statement.
"However, too many children remain in settings that do not meet minimum standards of health and safety. These basic rules ensure that providers take necessary basic steps to shield children from an avoidable tragedy."
Many states do not enforce even basic standards such as fingerprinting, background checks and first-aid training for providers and this puts children at risk, Sebelius said.
An HHS proposed rule would apply directly to child care providers who accept Child Care and Development Fund funds. More than 500,000 providers serve about 1.6 million low-income children via the CCDF.
Under the proposed rule, states would require that all CCDF-funded child care providers:
-- Receive health and safety training in specific areas.
-- Comply with applicable state and local fire, health and building codes.
-- Receive comprehensive background checks including fingerprinting.
-- Receive on-site monitoring.
The rule would also require states to share information with parents through user-friendly websites about provider health, safety and licensing information. While some states already post health and safety reports online, the new rule would bring all states up to this standard, Sebelius said.