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26 October 2011

Rupp: The Importance of Child Care Safety

As a state senator, I am always examining pressing issues in our state and considering matters that are of utmost importance to Missourians. One of my top priorities for the 2012 regular session, which begins in January, is to address the safety of our children in day care facilities. I want Missouri parents to be certain that when they go to work or attend to personal business, their children are in the best hands possible.

During the 2011 regular session, I sponsored SB 339, which would have established “Sam Pratt’s Law” and “Nathan’s Law,” modifying provisions relating to child care providers. I filed this measure when it was brought to my attention just how many preventable deaths were occurring in day care facilities throughout our state. Sam and Nathan are two children that died tragically while in the hands of unlicensed child care services.

Under Sam Pratt’s Law, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) would be authorized to investigate child care providers who are exempt from licensure if the department learns (or is notified) that such a provider has pending criminal charges. Any child care provider who continues to look after kids after notification by DHSS to stop such services would be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor for the first violation and a Class A misdemeanor for any subsequent violation.

Nathan’s Law addresses the number of children a provider can legally look after, among other protections. Under current law, a child care provider may be exempt from licensure if that person is caring for four or fewer children. Also, children who are related to the provider are not considered in the total number of children under the provider’s watch. Nathan’s Law would count the provider’s related children in the caregiver-to-child ratio, except in certain circumstances outlined by the law. If a child care provider continues to break the law, he or she would face a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, DHSS would be allowed to immediately shut down any day care facility that is unlicensed.

My hope is that families will be able to come together once again to help support these issues. Our kids deserve to be looked after by honest, caring individuals — as parents, there is no feeling more sickening than the doubt of your child’s safety. If you have any questions or concerns about our local child care centers, I encourage you to contact my Capitol office. I will remain dedicated to making our voices heard in Jefferson City regarding the well-being of our children.

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