Program Development Checklist
Use this checklist to develop your Choose Safe Places program — and help make sure that early care and education (ECE) centers in your state are safe from environmental hazards.
Section 1. Learn about existing guidance
Review important guidance — from governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — that relates to environmental health concerns and ECE programs.
Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education Guidance Manual
(Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
The definitive resource on establishing a Choose Safe Places program and the cornerstone of ATSDR’s initiative
Caring for Our Children Basics: Health and Safety Foundations for Early Care and Education
(Administration for Children and Families)
Guidelines that outline the minimum health and safety standards that need to be in place anywhere children are cared for outside their home
- Review relevant sections: 18.104.22.168 (Availability of Drinking Water), 22.214.171.124 (Inspection of Buildings), and 126.96.36.199 (Environmental Audit of Site Location)
- Consult related resources, Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs and Stepping Stones to Caring for Our Children [PDF – 10 MB]
Reducing Environmental Exposures in Child Care Facilities: A Review of State Policy
(Environmental Law Institute)
An overview of how various states have developed their child care licensing requirements
- Review Chapter 11, which covers state policies about selecting and choosing sites and facilities for child care programs
Section 2. See how other states have done it
A few states have already established programs to protect ECE centers from environmental hazards. Find out more about them and review some of their materials, which you can adapt for your program.
Learn about specific state programs
- Connecticut’s Child Day Care SAFER Program (Screening Assessment For Environmental Risk)
- New Jersey’s Environmental Guidance for All Child Care Facilities and Educational Facilities
- New York’s Guidance from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services
- Read more about state programs in Chapter 5 of the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education Guidance Manual
Download sample materials from other states to adapt for your program
- Childcare inspection form for licensors (Connecticut) [PDF – 33 KB]
- Property history questionnaire for child care applicants (Connecticut) [PDF – 37 KB]
- Well testing letter for child care operators (Connecticut) (See Appendix B, p87 in manual) [PDF – 46 KB]
- Hazards guidance sheet for child care operators (New York) [PDF – 102 KB]
Section 3. Look into related programs and agencies in your state
Learn about existing laws that relate to Choose Safe Places concerns — and see how your program might overlap with the work that other agencies and NGOs are already doing.
Work with the state agency tasked with the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)
- Review the fund’s brief related to building and physical premises safety [PDF – 283 KB]
- Reach out to the lead agency in your state that’s tasked with meeting CCDF requirements and discuss the relevance of state siting to their work
- Offer your office’s assistance — for example, their agency may need the health department’s help in assessing sites
Offer help to the agency that develops your state’s comprehensive child care plan
- See if the agency might consider including environmental health concerns in the next version of the plan
Look into adding Choose Safe Places concerns to your state’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS)
- Learn about QRIS programs across the country from the Administration for Children and Families
- If your state has a QRIS (or is developing one) reach out to the agency in charge and discuss the advantages of making environmental health concerns one of the QRIS standards
Work with Head Start grantees
- Review current Head Start performance standards to understand how Choose Safe Places concerns align with Head Start’s goals
- Make sure to check out Parts 1302.47 (safety practices) and 1303.42 (facilities)
- Use the Head Start Locator to learn more about the programs and grantees in your state
- Contact grantees to learn more about their programs and gauge their knowledge of environmental health concerns — and help them understand how a Choose Safe Places program fits in with the new performance standards
Find out which state and local agencies get funding from CDC or USDA Early Care and Education programs
- Talk about ways the agencies could meet funding requirements by addressing Choose Safe Places program concerns
- Review CDC’s best practices for obesity prevention in ECE settings
- Learn how CDC helps states and communities address obesity prevention
- Read about the USDA Farm to Preschool program to learn how USDA helps states and communities encourage healthy eating habits in young children
Research national accreditation associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- Consult this list of accreditation associations from the Administration for Children and Families [PDF – 135 KB] to find areas of overlap
- Look into NGOs with a focus on child care and/or environmental health such as:
- See if you can find contacts who may be helpful in championing projects and programs that help protect children from environmental exposures
Section 4. Work with partners and stakeholders
For an effective Choose Safe Places program, you’ll need cooperation from other agencies and stakeholders.
Contact local agencies to better understand their roles and discuss concerns
- ECE inspectors
- ECE licensing boards
- ECE owners and operators
- Planning and zoning officials (local, territorial, and tribal)
- Health department officials (local, territorial, and tribal)
- Environmental protection officials (local, territorial, and tribal)
- Other stakeholders you’ve identified as part of your state’s Choose Safe Places program
Start a conversation with contacts in other state and local agencies
Questions for ECE licensing agency staff
- Is the licensing program based at the state, county, or local level?
- How often are ECE programs inspected? By whom?
- Would relicensing offer a good opportunity to begin implementing new standards?
- How many ECE programs are licensed?
- Are there any third party certifications for ECE programs?
- Are there different categories of licensed ECE programs, such as family daycare, home daycare, child care facility, early learning centers, and child care centers?
Questions for zoning departments
- Does an ECE program need local zoning approval?
- What does a local zoning review process involve?
- If/when an ECE program needs to come before a planning board for approval, what is required? What considerations are discussed?
Questions for officials who might know about waste sites or local contamination
- Does any agency maintain lists of ECE programs, hazardous waste sites, and other locations or facilities using harmful chemicals to see if they are located near each other? Are the locations geocoded?
- Do facilities using hazardous chemicals (e.g. nail salons, dry cleaners, auto body shops) get inspected? How often?
- How is a hazardous waste site identified, assessed and remediated?
- Do policies or regulations exist to address proximity to potential environmental hazards when siting ECE programs? How is the policy or regulation administered? How is compliance demonstrated?
- Has any agency created maps that show locations at risk for elevated levels of naturally-occurring contamination such as radon, arsenic, and asbestos?
Use ATSDR’s Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education tools to educate agencies and potential partners
Fact Sheet [PDF – 262 KB]
Offer partners a quick overview of the goals of Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education
4 Steps for Building a Safe Siting Program Graphic [PDF – 565 KB]
Show agencies how they can work together to improve licensing for ECE programs
Set It Up Safe: Planning Tool [PDF – 520 KB]
Use this checklist to train licensers in evaluating locations for new ECE programs
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- Page last reviewed: December 20, 2017
- Page last updated: December 20, 2017
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