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Are you confident in your child's 'back-to-school' safety?

Nothing is more precious than our children. Loving parents do all they can to ensure they stay safe at home, but at some point, most children go off to school and very often into day care settings. Are you confident that the facilities your child will be in when he or she is not in your direct care are safe – at least by government standards if not your own?

As it happens, New York City is recognized by many as being ahead of much of the rest of the country in terms of rules and regulations for child care providers to follow to ensure the safety of those in their charge. Of course, rules on the books can't guarantee compliance. If a child care facility eliminates known hazards, it can violate child-adult ratio rules or something else. Injuries can still happen and pursuit of just compensation may require consulting with an attorney.

As a precautionary measure, it can be helpful for parents to know what the New York City law requires. By having that information in hand, it can be easier to hold providers accountable.

To begin with, two agencies – the city's Health Department and the state's Office of Children and Family Services -- wield regulatory authority over most child care operations. The Health Department is obligated to inspect city facilities. Assuming they pass, the agency issues licenses or registrations. The form of certification depends on the facility type. Group family care facilities need licenses. Family day care homes receive registrations.

If you place your child in an informal care situation, no regulations apply, except that providers are limited to caring for no more than two children.

Another useful thing for parents to know is that any group facilities should feature a performance summary card. The city issues this report and it must be displayed near the center's entrance.

Bottom line, whether your child is in school or in child care outside of home, operators have an obligation to ensure a safe environment. Regulations may help make choosing facilities easier, but if injuries occur, it's important to know what options exist.

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