MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On Thursday, the United States House of Representatives passed an omnibus spending bill with a bipartisan vote. The legislation included an amendment from Congresswoman Terri Sewell that targets unsafe daycare centers.
Rep. Sewell originally introduced the amendment in 2017. The amendment prevents daycare centers with a history of injuries or deaths due to health and safety issues from being able to receive federal funding.
Congresswoman Sewell said her motivation from writing the legislation came from the story of a 5-year-old who died at an unlicensed, but federally funded, daycare center in Mobile.
"After the tragic death of 5-year-old Kamden Johnson last summer, I worked to develop legislation prohibiting daycares with a history of health and safety violations from receiving federal funds," Sewell said. "Kamden's death was not the first child death at an unregulated day care center in Alabama, but I believe we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure it does not happen again."
Daycare centers in Alabama that qualify for a religious exemption are able to operate with state licensing. In 2017, a recent law started allowing the Alabama Department of Human Resources to inspect all daycare centers that receive federal funds from the Child Care and Development Block gr ant, even if the daycare center qualifies for a religious exemption.
"My amendment ensures that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund child care centers that care for the health and safety of our children," said Sewell. "My hope is that all of our child care centers will be encouraged to make the health and safety of our kids a top priority."
Sewell said this rule also applies to exempt centers.
"Regardless of whether a child care center is exempt from licensing standards, any child care injury that results from a violation of the health or safety regulations will eliminate that center's eligibility for federal funding."
Sewell said the determination of whether a child's injury at a daycare center was the result of a safety or health violation at the state level. She said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be responsible for ensuring the states are following the roles and keeping the federal funds from daycare centers that are deemed unsafe.