There are roughly 2,300 child care providers in Missouri that don't have to follow any kind of health and safety regulations – a huge problem for parents trying to find suitable day care for their children.
"There are some folks out there who, either through negligence or circumstance, should not be in the business of providing child care," says Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, "and there's very little to stop them from setting up a sign, throwing a swing set out back and calling themselves a childcare provider."
Not anymore: Nixon was in Kansas City on Wednesday to sign legislation creating new standards for child care providers, part of a larger package of bills aimed at improving children's welfare in the state.
The state is working to develop new rules for day care providers and procedures for letting parents know if the provider they've selected is licensed. A new website will track providers that have racked up violations. That work should be done in fall 2015.
The biggest change is how the state handles small home day care businesses, which before were largely unregulated if the provider was watching four or fewer children. The bill Nixon signs into law requires those day care operations to comply with safety, fire, health and building codes. It also mandates regular, unscheduled monitoring.
The governor praised several Kansas City lawmakers in attendance for their help passing the legislation, which he at one time feared would not make it out of the statehouse.
"In a bipartisan fashion, today kids are safer in the state of Missouri," says Independence Republican Rep. Noel Torpey. "We should be so proud of that."
Nixon also signed a bill Wednesday that gives the Missouri Children's Division more time to thoroughly investigate abuse and neglect reports.