Safe child care should be a given

A letter to the Editor of the Indianapolis Star. Written by John Neighbours.

If you’re the parent looking for someone to provide quality care for your young child while you work, what would you put on a list of expectations for an ideal experience?

Chances are, you’d make a list of things like books and activities to stimulate thinking and help build language and relationship skills. Likely you also would expect the adult provider to have specialized training to work with young children.

What’s unlikely to be on your list are things like hot and cold running water, food that’s uncontaminated and a building that has a fire exit. You would not list those things because you would assume they are required of anyone taking responsibility for someone else’s child.

But you would be wrong.

Current health and safety regulations for child-care providers vary widely depending upon the number of children for whom care is provided, the type of facility and whether the provider accepts government subsidies. In fact, many child-care providers are not required to have adequate adult supervision or ensure that the premises are in sound, neat and sanitary condition.

The lack of basic health and safety requirements for child-care providers creates wide discrepancies in the quality of care and confusion for parents. The lack of adequate regulations also causes those providers who give our children quality care to struggle to remain competitive with providers that do not meet these basic requirements.

United Way of Central Indiana supports Senate Bill 56 and House Bill 1226, currently before the Indiana General Assembly, that would standardize many of these basic health and safety requirements for child-care providers with no additional cost to the state. Requirements included in the bill are a national criminal history check for the program’s director, a requirement that a supervisory provider must be at least 18 years of age, and staff training in CPR, first aid, and child abuse and neglect.

United Way of Central Indiana has a long history of supporting child-care providers through its partner agencies. Since 2008, United Way has participated in a program to support child-care ministries with an investment of more than $1.2 million — initially in two vulnerable Indianapolis neighborhoods, but now serving 60 ministries across six counties.

United Way knows first hand that many providers offer high-quality child care and already have in place more stringent internal rules than what the legislation would require. For many providers this legislation would require few, if any, changes. Yet United Way also knows the tragic reality is that there are providers who do not offer safe and sanitary conditions for children.

Standardized health and safety requirements are the first step in quality child care. Quality child care is the first step toward education readiness. We owe it to our children to take these first steps if our community is committed — as United Way is — to children being ready to learn when they enter school and ready to earn when they graduate. If you agree, please contact your state representative or senator and ask him or her to support children through the adoption of basic health and safety standards.

Neighbours is a United Way of Central Indiana board member and chair of the Ready to Learn/Ready to Earn Committee.

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