Missouri toughening penalty in child care law

Power to pursue charges still left with county prosecutor

Missouri’s law is clear: An unlicensed day care provider can care for no more than four children who are not related to the provider.

The law also says a provider who violates that law can be assessed a fine not to exceed $200 for the first offense. In subsequent offenses, the provider can be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which can include a sentence of up to, but no more than, a year in the county jail.

And that punishment is about to get tougher — if a prosecutor files charges and there’s a conviction.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill this month that goes into effect Aug. 28 and adds to the misdemeanor conviction a required fine of up to $200 per day, not to exceed a total of $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

In that same new law, the Legislature this year also passed what’s being called “Sam Pratt’s Law,” in honor of a 2-month-old baby who died while in the care of an unlicensed day care operator in Pine Knob, in Ozark County.

That language says in cases involving abuse, neglect or death of a child, any court may prohibit the defendant from providing child care until the case is decided, as a condition of being released from jail.

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