INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Operators of unlicensed day cares that receive public
money would have to undergo training or ensure they had adequate staffing
under proposals being considered by lawmakers ahead of the 2014 legislative
The moves to improve the safety of unlicensed day cares come as concern
rises over the number of deaths in Indiana’s child-care facilities. An
Indianapolis Star investigation found that 15 of the 21 day-care deaths
since 2009 occurred in unlicensed or illegal facilities. Nine of those
deaths were reported in 2012.
"If you take government money, then you should be held to a higher
standard,” said Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, chairman of a study committee
looking at child-care safety.
Indiana already requires home day-care providers who look after six or more
children not related to them to be trained in health and safety precautions
and follow strict safe-sleep procedures. But homes with five or fewer are
unlicensed and are not subject to state scrutiny.
Lawmakers this year began requiring unlicensed day cares that receive
federal dollars to have written discipline policies, ensure that toilets
flush properly - and that employees wash their hands - and employ only
primary caregivers who are at least 18 years old.
They also began requiring all licensed day cares, and unlicensed ones that
receive federal money, to conduct national criminal background checks on all
employees and volunteers every three years.
The new measures being considered would expand state rules for more than
1,000 day cares but would not affect those that are exempt.
Advocates say Indiana needs tougher rules. Ten states license any home that
takes in one child, and at least 39 are more aggressive about safety than
Indiana is, according to Child Care Aware of America.
Dianna Wallace, executive director at the Indiana Association for the
Education of Young Children, said Indiana needs to step up its regulations.
“If they are caring for two or more unrelated children ... they need to be
regulated,” she said. “Period.”
Lawmakers are receptive to measures that would improve safety but question
whether licensing more homes would prevent deaths.
“Ultimately, I don’t see us as being able to solve every problem we have out
there with legislation,” Wesco said.
He noted that small providers are essential resources in many rural
“If the small provider has to go through all the paperwork and the challenge
of becoming licensed, are they going to even bother with it? And what does
that do with parents’ access to finding someone to watch their kids while
they’re at work?”
Indiana currently has 27 day-care inspectors and spends $2.5 million a year
to license and inspect the more than 4,700 facilities under state oversight.