Commonwealth Court Decision Affirms Department of Public Welfare Authority to Regulate Religiously Affiliated Child Care Facilities

Jan 14, 2010, 16:45 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

HARRISBURG, Pa.,  Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After 12 years of legal proceedings, Commonwealth Court has affirmed the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's authority to regulate religiously affiliated child care facilities, further protecting the health and safety of children in all forms of care.

"There is no greater support we can provide to families than to ensure that their children are as safe in their child care facility as they may be in their own home," said acting Secretary of Public Welfare Harriet Dichter. "This decision upholds our belief that every facility -- regardless of affiliation -- should be held to the same quality standards to protect the health, safety and development of our children."  

While investigating a complaint in January 1997, department inspectors learned nearly 20 children were in care at St. Elizabeth's Child Care Center in Whitehall, Lehigh County, which was operating without a license.  

The department issued St. Elizabeth's a cease and desist order, however the facility appealed the decision, arguing the department lacked the authority to regulate non-profit child care centers. The center went on to cite constitutional concerns regarding the impact of Pennsylvania's child care regulations on religious liberty.

After a series of legal proceedings, in February 2009 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the department's authority to require certification and remanded the religious liberty claims back to Commonwealth Court. This week, a three-judge panel held there was no evidence that substantive child care regulations infringe on the facility's religious liberty.

For more information about Pennsylvania child care facilities, visit

Media contact: Stacey Witalec, 717-787-4592

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare