JEFFERSON CITY – Following reports of another child fatality in an illegal Missouri day care, State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, is calling for a renewed focus on child safety from state policy makers and local prosecutors.
“Too many times, in too many communities, Missouri children have died or been injured in unlicensed, in-home day cares where providers are caring for too many children at one time,” said Sen. Schupp. “We must strengthen our laws, help to educate parents, and close down dangerous operations. I look forward to continuing to fight in the Missouri Legislature for the safety and wellbeing of our children.”
“Missouri’s child care statute does not include related children in the number of children to determine when licensing is necessary. This exclusion leads to the kinds of situation found at the home in Wentzville,” said Corinne Patton, former Executive Director of the Missouri Child Care Resource and Referral Network. “Child care providers often begin caring for one or two children and then increase the number to the point that children are no longer safe or receiving the care and attention that they need. Missouri needs to revise the childcare licensing statute to count children who come into the home for child care.”
In the State of Missouri, certain child care facilities are not required to obtain a child care license from the Department of Health and Senior Services and are therefore exempt from the state’s regulatory authority. For example, any person who is caring for four or fewer unrelated children is not required to be licensed and does not have to notify the state that he or she is providing child care.
According to media reports of the child’s death, the fatality occurred in an unlicensed, in-home child care setting in which the provider was caring for more than four unrelated children, in violation of state law. At the time of the incident, five of the children inside the home were related to the caregiver.
Since 2009, Sen. Schupp has sponsored legislation that would require children under kindergarten age who are related to the caregiver to be counted in the total number of children being cared for. The legislation would also require child care facilities to disclose their licensure status to parents; increase fines for lying about licensure status or capacity of the facility; and empower the Department of Health and Senior Services to immediately close any facility in which children are in imminent danger.
In 2017, Sen. Schupp’s legislation was voted out of the Senate Education Committee with bipartisan support. The bill was also supported by Missouri Kids First, Missouri Women’s Network, Generate Health, Vision for Children at Risk and National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis. Senator Schupp intends to introduce the legislation again in the 2018 legislative session.