FOR RELEASE: June 26, 2000


NASHVILLE—Gov. Don Sundquist today signed into law a bill that overhauls the state’s child care program from top to bottom.

"These are monumental reforms," Sundquist said. "We have worked long and hard to make Tennessee a better place for children, and this is an important step in that process.

"I appreciate the legislative sponsors of this bill for working with our administration to make this possible."

Most of the major recommendations of the Sundquist Administration’s original 128-page child care bill, plus a number of other requirements aimed at improving the health and safety of children and the quality of child care programs, passed the General Assembly two weeks ago after many months of study and lively debates.

Key points of the child care legislation signed into law include:

  • A faster rulemaking process for implementing new adult/child ratios for infants and toddlers; additional training requirements for directors and caregivers; requirements for liability and accident insurance and limits on the time children spend on vans being transported to and from child care businesses.

  • A wider range of enforcement options for the Department of Human Services to use when dealing with problem agencies (civil penalties of up to $1,000 for serious violations; partial revocation, suspension or denial of licenses and streamlined probation procedures.)

  • Mandatory criminal background checks for new operators, employees, certain substitute staff and residents of DHS-licensed child care agencies.

  • Issuance of multi-year licenses for high-quality child care agencies.

  • An increase in child care licensing fees that will be earmarked for child care training. The current fees ranging from $5 to $25 have not increased since 1986.

  • A rated child care licensing system, including a "report card" on key provider performance indicators.

  • Financial disclosures of all child care centers receiving more than $75,000 in state subsidies to address accountability for spending state/federal funds slated for child care services.

  • Random audits of child care centers receiving more than $250,000 in state fees. In addition, audits will be performed for all centers receiving $500,000 or more in payments.

  • The development of the state’s first set of regulations for many "drop-in" child care centers.

  • The prohibition on transferring child care businesses to other individuals or entities to circumvent licensing violations is strengthened. A longer waiting period is required before a provider can reapply for a license that has been denied or revoked.

  • Child care agencies must allow parents to visit facilities at any time to observe the children’s care and inspect any licensing records that are not confidential by law.

  • The Child Care Board of Review is permitted to hear cases in panels to review licensing enforcement actions more quickly.

  • Development of the "preliminary parameters" of a public/private partnership program to enhance funding of child care.

  • Clarification of licensing responsibilities of DHS, Department of Children’s Services and Department of Education.

Many of the new requirements have different implementation dates and/or will require DHS to develop and implement rules, policies and procedures before agencies will be expected to comply with the new requirements. DHS is currently preparing a mailing to the more than 5,000 licensed child care agencies outlining the new legislation and effective dates.