Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards
xxi Advice to User
The intended users of the standards include all who care
for young children in early care and education settings and
who work toward the goal of ensuring that all children from
day one have the opportunity to grow and develop appro-
priately, to thrive in healthy and safe environments, and to
develop healthy and safe behaviors that will last a lifetime.
All of the standards are attainable. Some may have al-
ready been attained in individual settings; others can be
implemented over time. For example, any organization
that funds early care and education should, in our opinion,
adopt these standards as funding requirements and should
set a payment rate that covers the cost of meeting them.
Recommended Use
Caregivers/Teachers can use the standards to develop
and implement sound practices, policies, and staff train-
ing to ensure that their program is healthy, safe, age-
appropriate for all children in their care.
Early Childhood Systems can build integrated health
and safety components into their systems that promote
healthy lifestyles for all children.
Families have sound information from the standards to
select quality programs and/or evaluate their child’s cur-
rent early care and education program. They can work in
partnership with caregivers/teachers in promoting healthy
and safe behavior and practice for their child and fam-
ily. Families may also want to incorporate many of these
healthy and safe practices at home.
Health Care Professionals can assist families and con-
sult with caregivers/teachers by using the standards as
guidance on what makes a healthy and safe and age ap-
propriate environment that encourages children’s devel-
opment of healthy and safe habits. Consultants may use
the standards to develop guidance materials to share with
both caregivers/teachers and parents/guardians.
Licensing Professionals/Regulators can use the evi-
dence-based rationale to develop or improve regulations
that require a healthy and safe learning environment at a
critical time in a child’s life and develop lifelong healthy
behaviors in children.
National Private Organizations that will update stan-
dards for accreditation or guidance purposes for a special
discipline can draw on the new work and rationales of the
third edition just as Caring for Our Children’s expert con-
tributors drew upon the expertise of these organizations in
developing the new standards.
Policy-Makers are equipped with sound science to meet
emerging challenges to children’s development of lifelong
healthy behaviors and lifestyles.
State Departments of Education (DOEs) and lo-
cal school administrations can use the standards to
guide the writing of standards for school operated child
care and preschool facilities, and this guidance will help
principals to implement good practice in early care and
education programs.
States and localities who fund subsidized care and
services for income-eligible families can use the stan-
dards to determine the level and quality of service to be
University/College Faculty of early childhood education
programs can instill healthy practices in their students
to model and use with young children upon entering the
early childhood workplace and transfer the latest research
into their education.
We have defined many terms in the Glossary found on page
541. Some of these are so important to the user that we are
emphasizing them here as well.
Types of Requirements:
A standard is a statement that defines a goal of practice. It
differs from a recommendation or a guideline in that it car-
ries greater incentive for universal compliance. It differs from
a regulation in that compliance is not necessarily required
for legal operation. It usually is legitimized or validated
based on scientific or epidemiological data, or when this
evidence is lacking, it represents the widely agreed upon,
state-of-the-art, high-quality level of practice.
The agency, program, or health practitioner that does not
meet the standard may incur disapproval or sanction from
within or without the organization. Thus, a standard is the
strongest criterion for practice set by a health organization
or association. For example, many manufacturers advertise
that their products meet ASTM standards as evidence to the
consumer of safety, while those products that cannot meet
the standards are sold without such labeling to undiscerning
A guideline is a statement of advice or instruction pertain-
ing to practice. It originates in an organization with acknowl-
edged professional standing. Although it may be unsolic-
ited, a guideline often is developed in response to a stated
request or perceived need for such advice or instruction. For
example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a
guideline for the elements necessary to make the diagnosis
of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
A regulation takes a previous standard or guideline and
makes it a requirement for legal operation. A regulation
originates in an agency with either governmental or official
authority and has the power of law. Such authority is usually
accompanied by an enforcement activity. Examples of regu-
lations are: State regulations pertaining to child:staff ratios
in a licensed child care center, and immunizations required
to enter an early care and education program. The compo-
nents of the regulation will vary by topic addressed as well
as by area of jurisdiction (e.g., municipality or state). Be-
cause a regulation prescribes a practice that every agency
or program must comply with, it usually is the minimum or
the floor below which no agency or program should operate.
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