Proposed Legislation Weakens Oversight of Daycare Children and Endangers Their Safety

Written by: Ken Selander Category: Children's Injuries

Our children’s safety is our number one priority, right? And when we entrust our children’s care with a licensed daycare provider, we expect there to be rules in place that protect our children under their watch. Most, if not all, of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) provisions governing family home child care facilities and commercial daycare centers advance child safety. In practice, it is failure to follow the rules and laws that result in a child’s safety being compromised. Yet when a daycare rule protecting children is relaxed, one can’t help but scratch their head and wonder whose interests the rule serves.

Given my desire to protect children, it was disappointing to see a new rule weakening “Safe Sleep Practices” being floated in the legislature. Specifically, WAC 170-300-0291 seeks to replace or loosen WAC 170-296A-7100 and WAC 170-296A-5750. Instead of requiring daycare providers to be within sight or hearing range of children under their care at all times, the new rule would require “supervising an infant at least every 15 minutes by being within sight and hearing range, including when an infant goes asleep, is sleeping, or is waking up.” In other words, a daycare provider can turn his or her back on a child who is sleeping for up to 15 minutes.

In my handling of sudden infant death syndrome cases, children have died when daycare providers ignore children and fail to follow the current rules on the books regarding supervision. The proposed WAC affords daycare providers extra time away from children thereby increasing the time they are left unsupervised and at risk for SIDS or other problems while sleeping or being alone. Is it too much to ask our legislature to tighten up daycare provider requirements to protect children, particularly infants, who are sleeping at licensed daycares? Apparently it is, because the proposed law erodes supervision requirements and safe sleep practices targeted to safeguard children at daycare facilities.

Ken Selander is a personal injury attorney with a focus on daycare cases and injuries. He is also a board member of the non-profit Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance (NISSA). Please contact Ken at 206-723-8200 if you have any questions regarding a claim for harm suffered by your child at daycare.