Alabama House approves day care oversight compromise bill

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The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved a day care compromise bill that intends to provide the most basic level of safety for children attending faith-based day care facilities throughout the state.

A  HB76, introduced by Tuskegee-Democrat state Rep. Pebblin Warren, advanced from the House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee on Tuesday. Under the legislation, the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR) would be able to inspect the nearly 1,000 faith-based centers throughout Alabama once a year.

“We are now one step closer to stopping another tragedy,” said Warren. “This bill would put in place the most basic safety standards for facilities that thousands and thousands of children across our state attend everyday.”

The legislation would also require criminal background checks on the people whose care children are being placed into and proof of insurance.

Under current law, Alabama is only one of seven states that still allows daycare centers to operate without regulation if they are a part of a church or ministry. Nearly half of the 1,914 day cares statewide claim the religious exemption, allowing them avoid background checks for workers and facility inspections.

Warren had submitted the same bill last session. Despite being passed out of the House with bipartisan support, similar legislation was held up by a small number of Senators who voiced concerns about it being an attempt to regulate or influence curriculum and the like.

In August, a young boy in Mobile, Kamden Johnson, died while in the care of an unlicensed daycare in Mobile, Ala. creating a bipartisan call for putting in place safeguards.

Over the summer, Governor Kay Ivey said state laws need to change and that she believes all daycare centers operating in Alabama should be licensed through the state.

“I strongly favor that if you’re going to be a daycare center for children you need to be licensed by the state,“ Ivey told reporters while attending the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Convention in Orange Beach in August.

Warren agreed.

“After the tragedy over the summer, I said this year would be different. It must be different,” added Warren. “We must put politics and special interests aside and do what is right and I hope with all my heart my colleagues in the Senate will do just that.”

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