Government & Politics

Bill would expand safe-sleep requirements for Kansas child care facilities

Kansas lawmakers are trying to combine the safe-sleep bill with another that would restrict sex offenders from working, volunteering or living in child care facilities.
Kansas lawmakers are trying to combine the safe-sleep bill with another that would restrict sex offenders from working, volunteering or living in child care facilities. jsleezer@kcstar.com

A bill up for consideration in the Kansas Legislature would strengthen safe-sleep practices in child care facilities.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, whose grandson died about a year ago.

“My grandson was placed in a car seat and passed away, and the car seat was not his. It was not to be utilized, but it was. And it was a tragedy that to this day our family still struggles with,” Burroughs told the Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.

“During that time with my grandson, there was another child within a handful of miles who suffered the same tragedy. Nationwide, there have been a number of those. ... To stop preventable deaths, I reviewed our policies and felt that we could make some improvements.”

The bill would require that child care facilities allow children to sleep only on surfaces and areas approved for use by the secretary of health and environment. Sleeping surfaces would have to be “free from soft or loose bedding, including blankets, bumpers and pillows, as well as toys, including mobiles and other types of play equipment or devices.”

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 45 children died between 2007 and 2015 in Kansas day cares from all causes, with more than half of the deaths occurring in licensed day care homes.

Current legislation dealt only with infants and not toddlers, Burroughs said. His grandson was 18 months old.

Lawmakers are trying to combine the bill with another that would restrict sex offenders from working, volunteering or living in child care facilities.

The restrictions would apply to sex offenders who are registered in Kansas, other states and the national registry, as well as arsonists and those who have been listed in any child abuse and neglect registries maintained by another state or the federal government.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued emergency suspension orders to two Wichita day cares in 2012 and 2008 for having registered sex offenders in the home, The Wichita Eagle reported last year.

State law allows the department to issue an emergency suspension order when the secretary decides one is necessary to protect children from potential threats. The legislation would make the ban on sex offenders explicit.

“I can’t believe these provisions are not already in statute,” said Rep. Linda Gallagher, a Lenexa Republican who is vice chairwoman of the House Children and Seniors Committee.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican, said it was a “public safety issue.”

“Now that we are aware of it, we absolutely have to get that done this year,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said she expects the Senate health committee to vote on the bill this week. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed support.

According to testimony from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees day care facilities, the bill is necessary to comply with new requirements for background checks under the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, which helps provide funding for child care services.

Kelsey Ryan: 816-234-4852, @kelsey_ryan

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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