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Infant deaths in child care continue to decrease

Infant deaths in child care settings fell dramatically in 2013, along with a substantial drop in temporary immediate suspensions issued by the Minnesota Department of Human Service (DHS) that require a license holder to immediately stop operating because of serious violation.

These decreases were key trends identified in the 2013 Year-End Report on Licensing and Background Studies by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG).

In 2013, there were three infant deaths in DHS-licensed settings, the fewest recorded in 11 years. Temporary immediate suspensions of licenses, which most commonly represent imminent danger to children in family child care settings, also declined to 88 in 2013 from 119 in 2012.

The 2011 OIG Licensing Report had shown a sharp increase in infant deaths primarily in family child care settings related to unsafe sleep practices.

Actions over the past two years have promoted increased awareness of the importance of safe sleep practices by child care providers, modification of several licensing standards, and changes to the enforcement of licensing rules. All of these measures may have helped reduce infant deaths to six in 2012 and three in 2013.

“It is heartbreaking when a child dies,” said Human Services commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Although these results show continuing progress, we want to do everything we can to make sure children are safe.”

In 2013, Governor Mark Dayton proposed and the Legislature enacted changes improving child care safety and enhancing training to increase compliance with safe sleep practices.

Other legislative action strengthened regulation of methadone clinics, established licensing requirements for home and community-based services, and made enhancements to the background study process.

The report outlines how these changes are being implemented and identifies other trends and emerging issues. These include:

● Continuing efforts to decrease infant deaths. DHS has developed tools to enhance the consistency of oversight by licensors and more clearly inform providers of standards and training requirements. Two additional licensing employees are being hired to provide regular training to county licensors.

● Coordinating licensing and child care provider fraud prevention. A child care fraud investigation unit, funded by the 2013 Legislature, is being established and will work with licensors to increase accountability in the Child Care Assistance Program.

● Enhancing background studies. DHS accesses the Predatory Offender Registry data base maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. DHS plans to use an electronic court data system to check on new criminal activity by prior background study recipients. A 2014 legislative proposal will require fingerprints for background study subjects and fingerprinted-based FBI record checks for personal care attendants.

● Licensing home and community-based services. As of January 1, providers of home and community-based services are required to be licensed by DHS.

In addition to highlighting trends and upcoming work, the 2013 report reviewed activity, data and trends of licensed programs and maltreatment investigations.