First-time parent Ellie Laskins, like many working mothers, utilized the services of a private childcare provider in order to return to work a few weeks after giving birth. The Laskins family said they sought recommendations, triple-checked references, and believed their daughter was in the hands of a safe and nurturing caregiver. But, a few weeks later, the baby died in the caregiver’s custody.

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“The woman had worked for 20 years as a caregiver, she had age-appropriate toys in her home when we visited, her background check was clean,” Laskins told the AFRO. “But following my daughter’s death a fingerprint check found that she had 5 aliases, and was wanted in several places for various crimes.”

On Sept. 23, Laskins joined Deputy Assistant to the President for Education Roberto Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development Linda Smith, and Office of Child Care Director Rachel Schumacher in a press conference to announce new standards for millions of children in child care.

With more than 12.5 million U.S. children under the age of five in some form of non-parental child care each week, it is estimated that as many as 40 percent of the childcare settings may not be regulated by a state or territory. States vary in the rules they set for licensed family child care, including how many children can be cared for in a home without being licensed.The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), a federal body devoted to providing low-income families with quality child care, called for new regulations to guard the safety of these children. The rules strengthen a number of provisions in the law and provide needed guidance to states to streamline practices nationally.

Among the provisions: mandatory background checks for all staff in child care facilities, initial training and ongoing professional development in 10 key area (including first aid/CPR, medication administration, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome prevention) for the early childhood workforce, disseminating information to assist parents in choosing child care that includes an accessible website, increasing funding to improve the quality of all child care settings, and ensuring annual monitoring of CCDF programs so children are healthy and safe in child care.

“President Obama has led an historic re-envisioning to help our youngest learners. Comprehensive access to high-quality childcare includes strengthening provisions to protect the health and safety of those children,” Rodríguez told the AFRO. “Affordable childcare that is also safe and offers a high quality of positive learning, makes for better education and a better nation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many researchers and practitioners said they believe child fatalities, due to abuse and neglect, are still underreported, estimating that approximately 50 percent of deaths reported as “unintentional injury deaths” are reclassified after further investigation by medical and forensic experts as deaths due to maltreatment.

“New federal rules require fingerprint checks on all child care providers,” Laskins said during the press conference. “All parents want children to be safe and promote their healthy development. This new legislation will make a difference.”