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Keeping Children Safe and Helping Families Find Quality Child Care

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality pre-school to every child in America and improving child care is an important part of this effort and a key component.

Editor's Note: This is a cross post from the Administration for Children & Families blog of the Department of Health & Human Services. You can find the original post here.

President Barack Obama hugs students in Decatur

President Barack Obama hugs students during a visit to a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As a working mom, I know how hard it is to find good child care so that I can have some peace of mind when I come to work. At ACF, we’ve been working hard to strengthen the nation’s child care system so that moms and dads, especially moms and dads with the fewest resources, can have better child care choices while they work to support their families.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama made a historic commitment to young children, making it a priority to ensure that “none of our children start the race of life already behind.” Improving child care is an important part of this effort and a key component of the President’s Plan for Early Education for All Americans.

Today, HHS announces a big new step in this direction - new proposed regulations for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which is administered here at the Office of Child Care. CCDF supports 1.6 million children in child care each month and invests over $1 billion each year in quality improvements like teacher training and grants to child care programs. All over the country, child care providers are dedicated to preparing children for school success. Despite the terrific efforts of public and private organizations around the country, there are some critical gaps in our child care programs. Some children are in child care settings that don’t meet basic health and safety standards. Often, there is a lack of useful comparative information for parents choosing child care. The new regulations are intended to close some of those gaps.

First, the proposed regulations will require all states to set a basic floor of minimum health and safety standards for child care providers that participate in CCDF – reaching potentially up to 500,000 child care providers who serve millions of children. New requirements include comprehensive background checks and training in first aid, CPR, safe sleep for babies, and other critical safeguards. States will need to make unannounced monitoring visits to check for compliance with health and safety standards.

The new regulations will also provide parents with information to make informed choices about child care. When I was looking for care, my state’s licensing website was a valuable resource to look up the health and safety track record of providers I was considering. Thirty states currently have this information on the web, but under the proposed rules, all 50 States would post child care providers health and safety records on the web.

Parents want to know about more than just health and safety, though. They want to have some key information about the teachers, learning activities, and other characteristics of programs that they are considering. In one of my child care searches, the local government provided an alphabetical list of 80 providers in my area which was not very useful in narrowing down my choices, since I would have to take off work to visit every one. The new rule builds on what over half the states are doing already – identifying indicators of quality so that parents can easily compare providers and narrow their search when they are ready to make interviews and visits.

We are excited to share these changes with you and strongly encourage you to read the entire Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). We believe that these proposed regulations will better support providers, parents, and states as they work together to make sure that children are safe, healthy, and prepared to succeed.

You can read more about the proposed rule at where it is currently on public display. Once it is published in the Federal Register, you may view it and submit a comment at: Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!