NEW YORK CITY – March 7, 2007 – The New York City Health Department today proposed for public comment several measures to improve the safety of child care services in New York City. The proposals are part of a Health Department initiative that has strengthened all aspects of child care regulations over the past two years. Among other revisions, changes proposed today would require approximately 500 additional child care services to secure City permits and conduct criminal and child-abuse background checks on staff members.
Additionally, training and education requirements for child care providers and staff would be strengthened to bring New York City in line with current state standards and national recommendations. The Department also proposed several other health and safety measures to strengthen child care in New York City. A full list of proposed changes to Article 47 of the New York City Health Code (Child Care Services) is available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/boh/boh.shtml.
"There has not been a significant revision of child care regulations for nearly 20 years," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "We are bringing child care in New York City up to current standards to promote the health and safety of the hundreds of thousands of children who use these services every day. We have a delicate balancing act to perform in regulating child care. We are trying to foster accessible, affordable services while assuring parents that their children are safe at any child care service in New York City. We welcome the public's comments on these proposals."
Religious Nursery Schools Would Require Permits, Background Checks
Currently, faith-based nursery schools that are separate from elementary schools require a permit from the Health Department, but those attached to elementary schools do not require a permit (these are classified as No Permit Required or "NPR"). The exempt programs are not required to do background checks on their employees' criminal or child-abuse histories. While they are subject to other provisions of the Health Code, –presently, the Health Department does not actively monitor their compliance.
NPR status has been available to New York City's school-based religious child care services for at least 25 years. However, most states (35) do not allow permit exemptions for faith-based organizations, according to the National Child Care Information Center.
"We inspect all complaints against child care services," Dr. Frieden said. "The proposed changes will strengthen child protections and ensure that parents and caregivers can get regular feedback through our website for all group child care services."
Other Key Proposed Changes to the Child Care Service Regulations
- Increase staff qualifications. Under proposed regulations, infant/toddler teachers would be required upon hire to have a high school diploma (or its equivalent) and nine college credits in early childhood education. In addition, they would have to obtain an associate's degree or equivalent documentation of proficiency in early-childhood education within seven years. Those with at least five years of supervised experience in infant/toddlers program would not need additional credits. Currently, these teachers only need a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Strengthen training for child care staff. To make NYC regulations consistent with New York State requirements and national recommendations, all teaching staff will be required to take 30 hours of training every two years in specific topics related to child health, safety, and development.
- Teachers who take this training as part of their ongoing certification will receive credit toward the training requirement.
- Child care staff would have to be retrained every two years in the prevention and identification of child abuse/maltreatment.
- Infant/toddler and night staff would be required to take a training course every two years in the prevention of SIDS and shaken-baby syndrome.
- Increase staff-to-child ratio. Currently, facilities caring for infants less than one year old must maintain a staff-to-child ratio of 1:4 (one staff for every four children). To increase quality of supervision and safety of infants, the new proposal would require a ratio of at least 1:3.
- Tighten structural requirements for indoor and outdoor programs. Under the proposed regulations, programs that operate indoors would be required to have guards on all windows and would not be allowed to operate more than one floor below ground level. This would ensure that infants/toddlers and children could be evacuated safely in an emergency. Rooftop play areas would be restricted to fireproof buildings and would require approval by the Health, Buildings, and Fire departments. Centers that are unable to comply with these structural regulations would be required to provide a detailed safety plan for the City's review and approval.
For more information on choosing a quality child care service in New York City, or to find out how a child care program did on recent inspection, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/dc/dc.shtml.