Inspections, who likes them? Most people fear inspections due to the thought of potential exposure to less than desirable information. When it comes to children though, wouldn’t you want to know the status of their child care environment from a health and safety standpoint and know more about who cares for them? Is it right that in Alabama hair salons are inspected, tattoo facilities are inspected but not all child care facilities are inspected? That’s all about to change – at least for all Jefferson County child care centers, which care for more than 12 children. Jefferson County is the most populous county in the state and there are several hundred child care programs in the county, serving thousands of children every day and supporting parents’ ability to work, so the impact of these new regulations is no small thing.

In 2011, the Jefferson County Department of Health approved new child care regulations that address areas of health and safety, physical activity and nutrition, and background checks for all child care staff among other health and safety aspects of child care operations. Members of Childcare Resources’ professional team, along with other community partners, worked with Health Department personnel to develop the regulations which took effect January 2, 2012. The regulations were recently revised and now the Health Department has announced the plan for enforcing the regulations through regular inspections with scores posted publicly just like their inspection reports for restaurants and public swimming pools.

This is welcome news for child care advocates who have worked for improved oversight for our children’s care environments and personnel -- especially with stories of alleged abuse, center-wide illnesses and other concerns related to the well-being of children. It should also be welcome news for parents so that they can be more fully aware of how their child care facility scores on these factors affecting the place where they leave their children for 40 – 60 hours per week at a critical time of child development and child vulnerability. Parents deserve assurance that their children are in safe child care environments that support their needs for their family.  Child care providers should welcome the news too because if all centers are subject to the same regulations, there is greater quality in the standard of care provided.

Childcare Resources commends the Jefferson County Health Department for stepping up to ensure children in local child care centers have someone looking out for their best interests. Our team of dedicated professionals is available to support implementation and enforcement of these regulations. Visit our website for information on health and safety trainings for child care providers that support the regulations as well as good information for parents to help them in their child care selection. Thanks Jefferson County Department of Health for looking out for our children!

Joan Wright is the executive director of Childcare Resources - the only nationally quality assured child care resource and referral agency in the south. The agency serves Blount, Jefferson, Shelby and Walker Counties in Alabama.