Editorials

NC Sen. Burr led the way on bill to improve child care

Everything seems to get politicized and blocked these days, so give North Carolina’s Republican Sen. Richard Burr credit for helping to guide a child-care bill through Congress and into law.

The new law expands subsidized child care, ensures background checks of child care workers in programs that get federal money and requires training for those workers. It also will set health and safety standards.

Burr, a conservative, worked with liberal Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland on the legislation, which followed many public hearings aimed at finding ways to improve programs that get federal grants. Burr listened and learned at those hearings, and he and Mikulski crafted a good piece of work here.

Burr even attended the bill signing at the White House, an event that these days is rarely a bipartisan one.

This measure is vital to protect children. In these times, parents, particularly those who are single parents, often work outside the home for long hours. To do that, they have to leave their children in the care of others, and for those who cannot afford private and often very expensive care, that is a nervous decision: Will the kids be safe? Will they be nurtured and not just managed? Will someone keep an eye on their health? Will those who watch over them have the training they need to handle a medical or behavioral crisis?

The federal government can’t do much about private care, but it can do something to set standards for those child-care facilities it subsidizes. There are good reasons for such help. Enabling parents to be in the work force helps them improve their lives and the prospects for their children. Such subsidies are not giveaways; they’re investments.

As Burr noted, the information required by the legislation “empowers” parents and ensures that federal funds won’t go to support child-care facilities where, for example, convicted criminals are employed. That sounds like an obvious limitation, but absent strict regulation, who knows?

Now, thanks to the senator, everyone who takes a child to a federally subsidized center will know.

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