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Bill strengthens day care regulations

Government regulation of businesses gets a bad rap for costing business operators money and driving up costs for their customers. But sometimes, regulation can make the difference between life and death.

A bill that passed the Oregon Senate unanimously on Monday fixes a potentially lethal loophole in state day care regulations.

Under existing law, day care providers caring for four or more children must be licensed by the state, and staff must enroll in the Central Background Registry maintained by the Oregon Office of Child Care. Day care providers caring for three or fewer children are exempt from that requirement, and may operate without a state license.

That’s probably fine in most cases, but in at least one situation, it left the state with no way to prevent a provider from continuing to advertise child care services after two children were injured, one fatally.

A 10-month-old Cottage Grove boy died in 2016 after he was found unresponsive in a Eugene in-home day care. Another boy in the same day care was severely injured months earlier, but authorities could not determine that the provider was responsible. The mother of the boy who died was outraged when she discovered the provider was still advertising day care services and there was nothing the state could do to stop her. The day care has since closed.

Senate Bill 490 would change that. Any provider who was the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse would be prohibited from providing child care or enrolling in the registry, and any person required to report as a sex offender would also be barred from providing day care.

Most day care providers do so legally and honorably, and state licensing requirements are there to protect children and offer parents some assurance that providers meet basic standards of care. Finding quality child care is stressful enough for parents without adding the risk that their child could be injured or even killed by the persons entrusted with the care.

SB 490 reasonably strengthens protections for children. The House should follow the Senate’s lead and approve the measure.