New Bills Target Child Safety

May 10th, 2024

Category: Early Childhood Education

At a Glance...

-Delaware lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at improving child safety in early learning centers.
-Senate Bills 294 and 295, and Senate Joint Resolution 7, introduced in May, look to strengthen the systems and processes around child care licensing and reporting.
-The bills seek to add capacity, compensation, and modernization to the Office of Child Care Licensing.

As we wrote in March, a handful of tragic incidents across the state have shone a spotlight on child safety and abuse risks at child care centers. Health and safety complaints to the Office of Child Care Licensing are up 30 percent over the last year, according to the Department of Education, which oversees child care licensing. 

In turn, Delaware legislators introduced in May a package of bills aimed at improving child safety. 

While new regulations and processes will be helpful, deeper state investments remain the big-picture key to truly unlocking all that early childhood education has to offer. Although Delaware has ramped up its early child care budget in recent years, much more is still needed. Today, most child care workers don’t earn a living wage, and many families are shut out from both available programming and from state benefits.  

SB 294 will build the capacity of the Office of Child Care Licensing by providing equitable compensation of licensing specialists, on par with other Delaware Department of Education employees. 

As a result, SB 294 will: 

  • Reduce turnover and the current litany of open positions—and improve recruitment.  
  • Provide more capacity to investigate complaints made against child care centers. Today, the process can take weeks, putting children at risk while complaints are being considered. 


This bill would likely carry a fiscal note, but as most would agree, such investments are worth it if they keep children safe.  


SJR 7 directs the Office of Child Care Licensing to modernize the child care licensing system, including an electronic system to streamline processes for providers, create efficiencies and enable the state licensing specialists to respond more quickly to complaints. The system needs to be implemented within the next two years. 

Delaware’s child care licensing process still utilizes paper files, adding to slow government churn and limited data systems. As mentioned in a previous blog, DDOE is requesting proposals from potential vendors to address this challenge. SJR 7 would establish timelines and requirements to ensure these plans deliver.  

SJR 7 aims to:  

  • Provide better data for making decisions – for example, there is no way to know today how many children are served in child care in Delaware or the true capacity of providers to serve families  
  • Make recordkeeping easier for providers and licensing specialists. 


SB 295 will strengthen the process for child care programs to obtain job applicants’ child care employment history. 

Currently, employers at child care centers are required to submit “service letters” to the Department of Labor that includes information on current and past employees. 

The bill mandates a few updates to this reporting process, requiring these letters specifically include: 

  • Information about engagement in prohibited acts (like rough handling and physical abuse, yelling, sexual abuse, denying children basic needs, or restraining children beyond holding them, as outlined in Delaware licensing regulations 
  • Concerns the previous employers would have about the employee providing care to children  


SB 295 also requires the Office of Child Care Licensing to report employers suspected of not adhering to these requirements. 

While these bills signal steps in the right direction, more remains to be done to stabilize the child care industry.  

As mentioned, actually investing what it costs to deliver quality care (instead of a much lower rate based on a convoluted system) to providers would allow them to hire, retain, and develop staff. Supporting the workforce should also include benefits, including mental health support for educators.  

Delaware also should implement protection plans for children while complaints are being investigated, and the state should make regulatory updates would ensure child care workers who have engaged in prohibited acts are not permitted to continue working in the field.  

Additionally, lawmakers could consider supporting lead remediation and filter updates in child care centers, as the state now does for K-12 schools 

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Madeleine Bayard



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