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Infant deaths in child care continue to decrease, report shows

DHS makes changes, proposes legislation to enhance background studies

February 19, 2014

Karen Smigielski

PDF version of news release

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 11years. 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 nine 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. We appreciate the efforts of providers, parents, local partners and legislators to improve child safety and also ensure that vulnerable adults cared for in licensed settings are safe.”  

In 2013, Gov. 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 taken a number of successful steps to improve safety in licensed child care settings, including developing tools to enhance the consistency of oversight by licensors and more clearly informing providers of standards and training requirements. Increased public awareness of safe sleep practices is likely another factor contributing to the decrease in infant deaths. Also, 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. This summer, DHS began accessing the Predatory Offender Registry data base maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as part of every background study. This spring, DHS plans to begin using 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. This background study redesign will provide more protection for Minnesotans receiving care in licensed facilities and homes.   
  • Licensing home and community-based services. As of Jan. 1, providers of home and community-based services are required to be licensed by DHS. During the year, DHS will be implementing the licensure requirements, and expanding and coordinating maltreatment investigations for these providers that serve people at risk of institutionalization.  

The OIG was created in 2011 to improve fraud prevention and recovery efforts, and increase regulatory effectiveness.  The Licensing Division licenses 3,510 programs that provide 11 different types of services to children and vulnerable adults in Minnesota. It directly licenses 2,763 providers and an additional 19,000 through partnering with counties and private licensing agencies. It also is responsible for maltreatment investigation.

The newly separated Background Studies Division performed 277,906 investigations for people working in DHS licensed programs and other settings where care is provided to children and vulnerable adults.

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

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