On July 11, Gov. Mike Parson signed a child protection bill [HB 397] that included “Nathan’s Law.”
Sponsored by Sen. Jill Schupp [D-Creve Coeur] and named after Nathan Blecha, “Nathan’s Law” seeks to protect and strengthen the safety of young children receiving care and education in unlicensed, in-home child care providers. The law will go into effect on Aug. 28.
“For over a decade, families of children who have died in unlicensed care have urged the general assembly to take action by fixing the lax laws to prevent future tragedies,” said Schupp said in announcing the legislation’s signing. “Finally, after the tireless and persistent work of so many, the loophole has been closed and more accountability standards for providers are in place. I am thankful to all who have helped make this legislation protecting our vulnerable young children, law in the State of Missouri.”
Current law in Missouri allows an unlicensed, in-home child care provider to care for four or fewer unrelated children in addition to an unlimited number of related children up to the third degree.
Blecha died from suffocation in 2007 at a Jefferson County in-home daycare serving 10 children.
Beginning Aug. 28, in-home child care providers will be limited to caring for no more than children total with no more than three under the age of 2.
“Since November, at least two infant fatalities occurred in Missouri when unlicensed in-home providers were attempting to care for more children than allowed by law,” said Craig Stevenson, director of policy and advocacy at Kids Win Missouri. “Our state’s infants will be safer under this new law. We are grateful for Sen. Schupp’s work to bring stakeholders from across the state together to create a workable solution.”
The legislation also increases the criminal penalties for those who violate the child care licensure statutes and creates a civil penalty enforceable by the Department of Health and Senior Services.