WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret M. Heckler, responding to growing reports of sexual abuse at preschool facilities, Thursday announced federal guidelines designed to prevent such abuse through requirements, including increased employee background investigations and policies that encourage surprise visits by parents.
"Day-care facilities have now become an integral part of the environmental and educational world of millions of young American children," Heckler said in a speech to the National Women's Economic Alliance. "All of us in government have a vital guardianship role to perform. Our vigilance can make a difference."
The department urged that states pass laws requiring day-care centers to conduct intensive screenings of potential employees, to establish probationary periods for new employees and to allow an "open-door" policy that would permit parents to visit facilities unannounced at any time. The department also suggested that day-care workers be trained to spot and report abusers.