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Subcommittee Hearing Examines Bill Dealing with Child Care

A bill (H.R. 469) designed to hold day care providers accountable for injuries or deaths that occur to children who are in their care was the subject of an October 4 hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime. The bill, known as “Jeremy and Julia’s Law,” is named after Jeremy Fiedelholtz and Julia Haas, two children who died while in the care of providers who misrepresented their services and failed to properly monitor the children.

Opening the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Bill McCollum (R-FL) said, “Today’s hearing is all the more painful in that both of these children died while in day care. Both died through the apparent neglect of the very persons whom the parents believed would diligently care for them….The question before us today, I believe, is why have these state statutes proven inadequate to save children like Jeremy and Julia.”

H.R. 469 would make it a federal crime for any child day care provider to knowingly make a false representation to either a parent or a law enforcement officer regarding the care or the provider that would place a child’s safety or health at risk. Such a false statement would subject the provider to fines of up to one year in jail. H.R. 469 also would make it a federal crime for a provider to recklessly cause serious bodily injury to a child, punishable by fines or up to three years in jail. The bill would define a child day care provider as “any person or entity that provides child day care in a place other than the home of the child or children for whom the care is provided.”

Testifying on behalf of the administration, Michael E. Horowitz of the Department of Justice agreed that the bill was an effort to reduce gross misconduct by day care providers. However, he expressed concern with the bill’s wording and asked that several changes be made prior to gaining the administration’s full support. “We are concerned that the definition of the term ‘child day care provider’ is overbroad and could be construed to cover friends and grandparents who, without remuneration, provide day care for a parent who traveled to employment in another state,” he stated, adding: “We suggest that the bill be made to apply only to providers who are engaged in child day care as a commercial activity.”

Additionally, Mr. Horowitz stated that the bill should be expanded to include false representations made both before and after a child is placed in day care. The legislation would only apply to misrepresentations made by day care providers prior to placing the child in their care. “A misrepresentation after placement may also endanger a child. Limiting the scope of the legislation in this regard seems problematic,” he stated.

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