Ministers Postpone Vote on Regulating Day Care Centers

The bill was prompted by the recent death of 1-year-old Yasmin Vinta in Petah Tikva day care center and by the indictment of caregiver for manslaughter

A day care center in Tel Aviv, 2016
Eyal Toueg

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed Sunday a vote on the day care supervision law. The bill had been stalled for six months due to disagreements between government ministries. It was advanced following the arrest of a day care worker for the death of 1-year-old Yasmin Vinta in Petah Tikva. Currently 23 percent of day care centers are under state supervision.

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The bill would give Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry inspectors the power to impose fines or shut down day care centers under certain conditions. The ministry says the law will mandate guidelines for receiving a license to operate a day care center and set minimum educational and training requirements for employees. It will also address physical conditions in the centers, the number of staff and their training, and nutrition and hygiene standards.

Initial implementation is expected to cost a billion shekels ($276.2 million), followed by a billion shekels in annual costs. A Finance Ministry source says the bill focuses more on the premises than it does on staff training, and that costs could be lowered.

The finance and social services ministries are trading blame for the delay. The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry says, “Unfortunately the bill is not being advanced because of the indifference and irresponsibility of treasury officials. From now on, any tragedy that occurs is on their head.” The Finance Ministry says: “Predictably, this is just more false spin from the welfare minister. Rather than focus on training caregivers in order to reduce the risk of child abuse, he chooses to put the responsibility on other ministries while advancing bills that have no substance beyond generating newspaper headlines.”

Today anyone can open a day care center without having any special training. The 1965 day care supervision law does not apply to privately run operations. Most day care centers for children under age 3 are privately run, some by people without appropriate training and who are not subject to any background checks.

The bill would give Social Services Ministry inspectors the power to impose fines of up to 25,000 shekels for operating a day care center without a license or for violating the terms of that license. They could order day care operators to comply with licensing rules and also shut down day care centers that are in violation of the standards.

The bill is based on a 2015 private members’ bill sponsored by MKs Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) and Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid). At the beginning of the year, the bill passed its preliminary reading, with the stipulation that the Social Services Ministry and not the Education Ministry have oversight of the day care centers, and that the bill be attached to a government bill sponsored by the Social Services Ministry.