Update on Committee Investigations

From Assemblyman Jeff Klein
Chair, Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation

Assemblyman Klein’s Involvement Drives State and Local Action Protecting Children from Exposure to Recalled Products

Klein works legislatively and with governmental and child care agencies to protect children from unsafe products.
Assemblyman Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) has had a longstanding interest in the issue of product recalls, particularly as it relates to children’s products. His primary concern has been to ensure better consumer awareness and to provide parents with a comfort level that child care settings of their choice are safe and secure. Assemblyman Klein’s efforts include introduction of the New York Children’s Product Safety Act governing unsafe and recalled children’s products. The Act’s key provisions include:

  • Prohibiting a child care facility from using or having on its premises an unsafe children’s product, as defined by the Act, which would include a children’s product that has been recalled;
  • Requiring the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to notify child care facilities of such prohibition and related provisions of the Act;
  • Requiring OCFS to notify child care facilities of unsafe children’s products in non-technical language that will enable each facility to effectively inspect and identify unsafe children’s products; and
  • Authorizing OCFS to revoke or refuse to renew the registration or license of any child care facility should the licensee or registrant not comply with provisions of the Act.

A December 2003 report issued by the New York State Attorney General (“The Attorney General’s Thrift Shop Initiative: Removing Dangerous Children’s And Other Consumer Products From The Secondary Marketplace”) and the New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) 2003 Toy Safety Report (“Trouble in Toyland”), both noted support for the Klein legislation.

As Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Klein continued his involvement with this issue. He participated in an Assembly Roundtable on Child Product Safety in the Fall of 2002 and explored consumer protection issues with representatives from Consumers Union and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Committee staff researched the laws and regulations pertaining to recalled products and the duties of State and local agencies for monitoring and inspecting child care facilities.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Day Care Program (NYCDOH) is responsible for regulating approximately 2,000 Group Day Care Centers in NYC pursuant to the City’s Health Code. Except for these Group Day Care Centers in New York City, OCFS has the responsibility under State Law to license and regulate the approximate 18,500 child care providers Statewide.

Current child care regulations require child care providers to maintain safe environments for children in their care. The approximate 40 child care resource and referral services organizations (CCRRs) across the State also play a vital role in providing technical assistance and guidance to child care providers. In early Fall of 2002, Chairman Klein reached out to OCFS and the NYS Child Care Coordinating Council (State Council), which is the CCRRs’ membership organization, to discuss various strategies to increase provider awareness of product recalls. Working in partnership with OCFS, the State Council, and more recently with NYCDOH, administrative actions to assist child care providers in identifying and removing recalled children’s products from child care settings were developed.

Actions taken by OCFS include the following:

  • Providing a link from the OCFS web site to the CPSC web site for product recall notices and separately highlighting on its web page any recalls likely to have a widespread impact on the child care community;
  • Using its twice-monthly video teleconferences with providers to highlight key recalls;
  • Meeting with CCRRs to begin developing strategies to increase providers’ awareness of recalled products and their ability to access the CPSC product recall list (e.g., via internet, quarterly CCRRs newsletters, trainings, etc.);
  • Sending the provider community information about the new OCFS web site link and underscoring providers’ responsibility to ensure that all of the equipment in their programs are safe and not the subject of a product recall;
  • Issuing a memo for its child care inspection staff suggesting methods by which inspectors can assist providers in obtaining product safety information and monitor how providers are meeting their obligation to identify and remove unsafe products; and
  • Adding inspector checklist items to verify whether a provider is staying current with recall information and maintaining a child care setting that is free from unsafe products.

Chairman Klein will continue to work with OCFS and NYCDOH to bring public attention to this important issue. As these administrative actions are pursued and take effect, Chairman Klein will reassess the need for his proposed legislation for consideration during the 2004 legislative session.

PUBLIC EYE #6 (February 2004) is the sixth in a series of updates from Chairman Jeff Klein detailing his work as Chair of the NYS Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. Other issues will follow. The Committee is charged with reviewing implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, it seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether funds allocated for programs are spent effectively, efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.

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