Choose Safe Places for Early Care and EducationChild Care Safe Siting and Operation - Protecting the health of children where they learn and play
The Tennessee Department of Health wants to ensure your children are kept safe and healthy while they are in child care. The Tennessee Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (TNCSP) program works to reach this goal through promoting safe siting and safe operation of early care and education centers across the state.
When a new early care and education center applies for a license through the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TNDHS), the prospective provider follows a series of steps to become licensed and allowed to operate. Beginning in the fall of 2021, TNCSP became a part of TNDHS’s pre-licensure process. Before an early care and education (ECE) center can be licensed, the location is screened by TNCSP. The TNDHS Pre-Licensure Specialist assigned to the location will send the necessary information to TNCSP. However, prospective ECE providers are also encouraged to submit our self-audit survey to provide additional helpful information. From there, TNCSP will check the potential site for any known environmental hazards that could pose a threat to the children and employees. An existing ECE may also choose to request a screening through TNCSP by using this survey or by downloading this form and emailing responses to ChooseSafePlaces.TN@tn.gov.
If any environmental hazards are identified during their review, TNCSP provides recommendations on how the prospective provider can mitigate the hazard.
TNCSP has reviewed hundreds of prospective child care centers across the state to check if the site may be unsafe for children.
Safe Siting: The places where children learn and are cared for should not harm their health. Safe siting is the consideration of the ECE’s location as it pertains to nearby known polluted sites, and current, former, and co-located property uses. Safe siting seeks to protect children from being exposed to indoor and outdoor chemical contaminants from various sources. Past manufacturing, industrial or agricultural uses can sometimes leave hazardous chemicals behind in buildings or on the land. Children could be exposed to chemical contaminants in the soil while playing. An assessment of the past use of the property could prevent this type of exposure.
In addition, if businesses using chemicals (such as a dry cleaner, nail salon, auto body shop) are within the same building complex as the ECE, the indoor environment of the ECE may be impacted by the chemicals. The goal of Safe Siting is to proactively identify potential environmental hazards before an ECE is licensed. This proactive approach allows TNCSP to make recommendations to the child care provider to mitigate any hazards and the child care provider the time to act on the recommendations before they open their business.
Safe Operation: The Tennessee Department of Health is committed to protecting children where they live, learn, and play. When the child care environment is unhealthy, children can be exposed to allergens, pollutants, chemicals and play room conditions that might cause their health to suffer. Children are often more heavily exposed to toxic substances in the environment than adults because they spend more time on the ground and engage in more hand-to-mouth behavior.
Children also breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food per pound of body weight than adults. A child’s respiratory, immune, nervous, reproductive, and skeletal systems continue to develop throughout childhood. Exposures to environmental contaminants early in life can cause adverse health impacts during childhood. Some of these health effects can have implications well into adulthood. Furthermore, children with disabilities face unique challenges that might make them more vulnerable to the risks of an unhealthy child care environment.
TNCSP promotes Safe Operation concepts around lead poisoning prevention, drinking water, indoor air quality, and pest management.