Questions & Answers about EEC's New Licensing Regulations

What is different in the new regulations?

Most of the requirements in the existing regulations have been brought forward into the new regulations without change. However, some changes have been made to further improve the quality of early education and care in Massachusetts and to make the regulations more flexible for all educators. For example, the new regulations:

  • Allow Family Child Care to be provided in additional locations;
  • Create a new "hybrid" type of care, "Small Group and School Age Child Care," that serves 10 or fewer children in a setting that is not a home or residence;
  • Allow multi-age grouping in center-based child care serving infants, toddlers and/or preschoolers;
  • Use the inclusive term "educator" to refer to staff who work with children in recognition of the importance of this work;
  • Include an important new section, "Interactions Among Educators and Children," that addresses the kind of nurturing and responsive relationship required to support a child's healthy growth and development;
  • Allow the placement of a limited number of children outside their chronological age group, when such placement is developmentally appropriate;
  • Include requirements for periodic reports to parents of children's progress in all programs;
  • Provide parents with additional written information (parent handbooks) from all program types;
  • Require completion of an EEC-approved orientation for all educators;
  • Increase requirements for professional development for some educators and require annual registration of all educators;
  • Require new, more comprehensive training in medication administration, sound nutrition, and choking hazards;
  • Support good oral health by requiring that children brush their teeth when they are in care for more than four hours, or consume a meal during care;
  • Require a lifeguard to supervise all off-site swimming or boating activities and a second person to be on the premises to assist in case of an emergency during an on-site swimming activity;
  • Require impact-absorbing use zones under all elevated playground equipment installed in Family Child Care after January 2010 or in new Family Child Care programs licensed after January 2010.;

When do I have to be in compliance with the new regulations?

The new regulations will not go into effect (be promulgated) until January 2010. Licensed providers are responsible for compliance with the new regulations beginning the day the new regulations are promulgated. However, if you have maintained compliance with the current regulations, you will already be in compliance with most of the new regulations.

How can I learn about the new regulations?

Training will be made available for providers in both family child care and group and school age child care programs beginning with license renewal meetings in EEC Regional Offices during the summer of 2009. Additional trainings will be held for all interested providers during the fall of 2009. In addition, you may download a copy of the "final draft" of the regulations from this website.

If my license expires early in 2010, will I be expected to meet the new professional development standards of 10 hours per year for Family Child Care?

The "clock" on professional development requirements does not start ticking until the regulations are promulgated. If you can demonstrate that you met either the current standard (15 hours over the past 3 years for Family Child Care; 20 hours over the past 3 years for "plus", or 30 hours over the past 3 years for "large"), or that you have taken 10 hours during the year before your renewal, you will have met the training standard. Beginning in January, 2011, however, all providers must meet the new standard of 10 hours per year.

What about new training requirements, like medication administration and nutrition?

EEC is developing resources in partnership with the Department of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other government and community agencies to provide training on medication administration, nutrition, and other new regulatory requirements. A variety of training formats will be made available, including distance learning/e-training and in-person workshops. EEC will make sure that these resources are widely available before the regulations become effective.

During development of the regulations there was a lot of talk about new swimming and water safety requirements. What do the final regulations require?

Many of the changes reflect "best practice" that some programs have always followed. In center-based programs, a lifeguard has always been required to supervise on-site swimming activities. This "best practice" of having a life-guard present for all off-site swimming and boating activities will now be required for all programs (The certified life guard could be program staff or an employee of the beach, pond or pool).

In addition, the new regulations require that whenever children are using a swimming pool, an adult must be immediately available who knows the pump location and can turn the pump off in the event of an emergency (This could be a program employee, or in the case of a public pool, the lifeguard or another employee).

Finally, whenever children are swimming, regardless of location, a second adult must be present to assist in case of an emergency during the water activity. This person does not require EEC approval, and does not have to be working in the program. Note: None of these requirements applies to wading pools, which are emptied and sanitized after each use.

I hear there are new requirements for playground equipment and fall zones. What are they?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 83% of playground injuries are suffered by children between ages 2 and 9. EEC will continue to require safe fall (use) zones under playground equipment with an appropriate depth of impact absorbing materials in group child care programs.

In addition the new regulations apply these requirements to programs serving school age children, and to Family Child Care homes licensed for the first time after January, 2010. Further, playground equipment like swings, slides, and climbers that is installed after January, 2010 in previously licensed Family Child Care programs must have impact absorbing use zones.

Currently licensed Family Child Care homes will have additional time to install impact-absorbing use zones under existing playground equipment. EEC will also provide information on safe options for fun and healthy gross motor activities that do not depend on equipment that requires fall zones. 

What will be required for progress reports? Will there be training available?

Early education and out of school time providers are experienced observers of children, and can offer valuable information to parents about their children's development. Early education and care and out of school time programs provide children with different opportunities than home or school to demonstrate new skills, either individually or in groups. Sharing your observations with parents may give them new insights into their child.

The new regulations expand the current Group Child Care requirement for progress reports to include Family Child Care and School Age Child Care.

Progress reports must be prepared:

  • every 3 months for infants and children with special needs;
  • every 6 months for toddlers and preschoolers; and
  • at least annually at the midpoint of the child's program year for school age children.

Progress reports for children younger than school age must address all developmental domains, including cognitive, social/emotional, language, fine and gross motor, and life skills. Progress reports for school age children can be limited to the child's growth and development within the context of the program's statement of purpose.

EEC has posted several resources that discuss the importance of progress reports, observing and documenting children's progress, and sharing information with parents. 

In addition, several training opportunities will be available for educators. No one method, format or tool is required. However, if your program is already using a standardized progress report format in conjunction with one of the EEC approved assessment tools, you should continue to use that format.

Are parent signatures required on the new progress reports? How do I know parents will even read them? What if they disagree with what I've written?

You must offer parents an opportunity to meet with you to discuss their child's progress, and let them know you value their perspective on their child's development but you do not need a parent signature. You must maintain a copy of the child's progress report in the child's file. Most parents are very interested in how their children are progressing and in seeing their "work", and will look forward to your reports.

During regulation development there was a lot of discussion about the many documents that had to be posted in a Family Child Care home. What was the outcome?

In response to those comments, EEC carefully reviewed the list of documents and reduced the number of postings. All programs (including Family Child Care homes) must post the following information in an area easily visible to parents, educators and visitors:

  • a "Call 911 First" reminder with the telephone number and address of the program, and the location of the program in the facility;
  • the telephone number of the Poison Control Center, and the name and number of the emergency back-up person;
  • a list of all emergency or life saving medications and the children to whom they belong (training will be provided on how to meet this requirement and protect children's privacy),
  • a list of allergies and other emergency medical information for each child (training will be provided on how to meet this requirement and protect children's privacy); and
  • the current program license.

In addition, Small and Large Group and School Age Programs must post:

  • the location of the health care policy;
  • the name, address and telephone number of the health care consultant;
  • the location of the first aid kit; and
  • emergency and evacuation procedures next to each exit.

Will there still be a "plus" and a "large" Family Child Care license?

The qualifications and requirements for Family Child Care providers seeking to care for 8 or 10 children remain essentially the same. Family Child Care providers seeking to care for 8 or 10 children must already have at least one year of licensed Family Child Care experience, as well as additional education, training or experience. However, the regulations will no longer use the terms "plus" and "large" on the license. As is the current regulations, the number of children that Family Child Care programs will be licensed to serve will depend on the space and materials available, the number of educators, and their qualifications.

I understand that the new regulations will allow some children to be placed in a group with older children. Since parents often think that their children are "advanced," how do we make the right decision about group assignment?

The regulations require that all group assignments be developmentally appropriate for the individual child. The regulations also give programs the option of assigning a child to a fixed age group outside their chronological age if this best meets that child's developmental needs.

In doing so, educators must consult with the child's parents, and document the specific reasons why the alternative group assignment is proposed, the child's ability to effectively participate in the proposed group's activities, and the ability of the group to accommodate the child's needs and behaviors. No more than two children who are outside the group's chronological age range may be placed in each group.

If the program determines that the child's skills, abilities, and interests more closely align with the next older or younger age group and that placement in that group will support the child's growth and development and if parents support the placement, the child may be assigned to the group (provided that the two-child limit is not exceeded).

Only when all of these conditions are met can placement outside of a chronological age group be considered. In making these placements, educators must also be aware of the needs of diverse learners and must ensure that the placement is compatible with the goals in the child's IEP or IFSP.

Do the new regs require that all educators obtain a college degree?

No. The qualifications required of staff working in Family Child Care homes and center-based programs are unchanged. EEC is designing a workforce development plan that incorporates core competencies and career ladders. Eventually, the required qualifications will be changed to reflect this work.

Please note that some EEC initiatives like Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) or the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) (which is in development) do require degrees. In addition, staff working in programs seeking accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and other accrediting bodies may need degrees for that process.

You said that the new regulations specify that one third of the required professional development must address "diverse learners." Who are diverse learners?

Current regulations for group and school age programs require that 25% of the required professional development hours be in the area of children with special needs or disabilities. The new regulations increase the required time and extend the requirement to Family Child Care educators but also expand the focus to "children who have special physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive or linguistic needs or whose primary learning modality is visual, auditory, tactile or kinesthetic, who may require an adaptation in the environment, interaction or curriculum in order to succeed in their program."

How will EEC determine if programs are meeting the new requirements about interactions?

EEC has developed a self-assessment tool for educators and a supervisor's checklist that programs can use to evaluate their own interactions with children (see the Interactions Resource Packet at http://www.eec.state.ma.us/licensingRegulations.aspx). Licensors will use these tools as a basis for conversations with programs about positive interactions, and to identify both strengths and where staff interactions can be improved with additional resources for staff development. As in the past, serious non-compliance with regulations for positive child guidance will be immediately addressed.

Speaking of child guidance, what resources are available to help us with children with serious behavioral or mental health issues?

All providers must offer information to parents regarding health and educational resources for the child and family whenever special problems arise. In addition, Small and Large Group and School age Programs must have written procedures that describe how they will avoid suspension and termination of children from the program, including parent meetings, referrals, behavior intervention plans and pursuit of options for additional supportive services. As funding allows, EEC provides support to programs for mental health consultation, staff training, and additional staffing for children with identified special needs.

What are the new curriculum requirements?

The new regulations require evidence that programs provide specific, planned learning experiences that support the social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and language development of all children.

Such experiences must include 60 minutes of daily physical activity (in full day programs) and provide children with opportunities to interact with peers and adults, to learn age-appropriate self-help skills, to play alone or with others, and to participate in a variety of creative activities.

The curriculum should foster independence and problem solving, support school-readiness, and allow for flexibility, spontaneity, and child-directed (as well as educator-initiated) activities. Most programs are already doing many activities that are part of an age-appropriate curriculum. EEC will provide additional resources for programs to support curriculum development.

Is it true that we have to brush children's teeth?

EEC's new regs require educators to assist children in brushing their teeth whenever children remain in care for more than four hours and/or consume a meal in child care. One in four Massachusetts kindergartners have dental decay; 50% of which goes untreated. Low income children affected almost twice as often as their more affluent peers. Early tooth loss is linked to failure to thrive, impaired speech development, poor concentration, and reduced self-esteem.

For these reasons, many EEC-licensed programs (including all Massachusetts Head Start programs) already practice regular tooth-brushing. EEC is working in partnership with the Department of Public Health and others to improve oral health in Massachusetts and will provide training and resources to assist programs in implementing these requirements.


Questions and Answers from the 12/11/2009 Trainings PDF


Information provided by the Department of Early Education and Care . Created: May 19, 2009.