New state regulation may block child therapists from daycare centers

Nov 25, 2019

Social workers, speech therapists and others who work with children with special needs are raising concerns about a new state regulation that interferes with their ability to effectively help children.

The new regulation from the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is meant to ensure all licensed day care center employees have background checks. It’s something speech, physical and other therapists already have through the state Department of Education. However, they usually aren’t employees of a single daycare centers and often help children at several.

Credit David Goldman / AP

The OCFS refuses to recognized their existing background clearances and won’t allow therapists to get new ones through their agency. As a result, therapists can only work with children in the presence of an authorized daycare employee or in the classroom filled with other students. 

Gretchen Jacobs is a speech therapist and Director of Education Services at the Racker Center in Ithaca.

She said because of new regulation, children are not getting the one-on-one treatment they are supposed to and that’s bad for their development.

“What’s happening with this new requirement is that those therapists have to be supervised which means they’re pushing in,” she said, “they’re doing all of their services in the classroom.”

Jacobs said therapists statewide are have concerns about the children’s privacy rights, as well because they are responsible for protecting children’s healthcare privacy (HIPPA) rights.

A state Office of Children and Family Services official told public radio's WSKG they are aware of concerns and are working on a response. 

A meeting of providers on Friday included discussion of the issue. No one at the Tompkins County Department of Health would respond to our requests for interviews.

A public comment period about the new regulation ends Monday.