Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held a ceremonial bill signing on Monday for House Bill 76, which would license certain day cares in the state.
VOICES for Alabama’s Children released a statement in support of the legislation which they claim will lead to safety improvements in child care centers across Alabama.
The Child Care Safety Act was passed by the legislature in March and was signed by Ivey in March. Monday’s signing was ceremonial.
VOICES for Alabama’s Children said “That an estimated two-thirds of Alabama children have all parents in the workforce, greatly underscoring the need for healthy and safe environments for young children.
“The educational dialogue between legislators and advocates from across Alabama regarding licensing standards was an important step in elevating this issue into the public arena.”
HB 76 was sponsored by Reps. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, and KL Brown, R-Jacksonville. It strengthened safety requirements for child care programs, limits which programs are exempt and adds annual fire and health department inspection requirements.
HB 76 also includes mandatory insurance requirements for faith-based programs that qualify to be licensed exempt. It will also require mandatory criminal background checks on all employees; the failure to annually provide such reports will trigger a visit by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) that may result in requiring the program to become licensed.
“We thank our lawmakers for taking a first step towards fixing the child care system in our state and appreciate the efforts of our advocates and partners who have worked tirelessly on this issue. We will continue to fight to make all child care safe care for the children of Alabama,” Rhonda Mann, Interim executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, said.
VOICES for Alabama’s Children is said to be the state’s longest-standing multi-issue child advocacy organization. It is home to the Alabama Kids Count Data Book. The group said that it believes all children deserve basic health and safety protections while in child care.
“While HB 76 is a step in the right direction, it is far from the ideal legislation that we believe the children of Alabama deserve. According to the 2017 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, by 2027 projections show licensed exempt programs will make up more than 63% of all child care in Alabama. The current bill will do nothing to curb the growth of licensed exempt child care.”
VOICES for Alabama’s Children says that it is a statewide nonprofit that works to ensure the well-being of Alabama’s children through research, public awareness, and advocacy.
Critics of HB76 argued that it was an unwarranted intrusion on Alabama’s Churches and the constitutional rights of citizens freedom to practice their religion without state interference. Some worry that government inspections could ultimately lead to government bureaucrats censoring the curriculum taught at faith based institutions.