Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.7 Maintenance

5.7.0 Structure Maintenance

Standard last updated 09/27/2022.

The structure of the early care and education program building should be kept in good repair and safe condition. Each window, exterior door, wall, staircase, ceiling, floor, roof, foundation, and basement/cellar hatchway should be kept structurally sound to comply with building codes.

Early care and education program facilities should have annual inspections and maintenance of environmental hazards (e.g., paint, plater, leaks, pesticide use/storage, air quality, water) and the structures listed above. 

All early care and education programs buildings built before 1978 should have annual inspections of exterior surfaces to make sure the paint is intact and there is no friction/rubbing where lead-based paint may be present. Pre-1978 buildings should also have annual inspections to fix roof and water leaks, which will reduce paint deterioration caused by exposure to moisture.1–2 For more information on lead testing or removal, see CFOC Standard
The physical structure where children spend each day in early care and education programs can become dangerous present safety concerns if it is not maintained in a safe condition. Keeping the facility structurally sound and in good repair is important for preventing injuries, controlling exposure to contaminants (e.g., mold, dust, lead), and protecting from weather and natural disasters. Also, floor surfaces in disrepair could cause falls and injuries, and broken glass windows could cause severe cuts or other glass injuries.

A weather-tight and water-tight building not only helps preserve the building structures but is also important for keeping indoor temperatures in acceptable ranges, limiting the entry of pests, and keeping out water that can lead to excessive dampness, mold contamination, and deterioration of painted surfaces.3-4

Surfaces coated with lead-based paint can cause lead poisoning. Lead is especially dangerous to children, because their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects, and their young bodies can absorb more lead. Babies and young children also often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects may have lead dust on them, particularly if a child is crawling on floors contaminated with lead dust.2,5–6 Once ingested, lead can lead to several negative health effects in children.5

The manufacture of lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but many older buildings around the country still have it. Lead exposure during childhood can cause brain damage, loss of IQ, poor memory, behavior problems, and death. When lead-based paint breaks down, chips and dust settle onto surfaces children can easily reach, such as floors and other walking surfaces. Contaminated dust can be inhaled or ingested and is hazardous even if the particles are too small to see.7
A state or local childhood lead poisoning prevention program, health department, or certified risk assessment professional can help early care and education programs test for lead hazards and write a “remediation plan” to reduce paint, water, or soil lead hazards that are found. 

See Caring for Our Children Standard for details on testing for and remediating lead hazards, including interim controls and lead abatement. Lead-related hazards on portions of porches, stair railings, and handrails are discussed in, Maintenance of Exterior Surfaces

For more information on lead exposures, visit the EPA’s Protect Your Family from Sources of Lead Web page.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Structurally Sound Facility Testing for and Remediating Lead Hazards Maintenance of Exterior Surfaces
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Renovate right: important lead hazard information for families, child care providers and schools. Web site. Accessed May 9, 2022. 
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead in paint. Web site. Last reviewed May 26, 2022. Accessed June 7, 2022. 
  3. National Institute of Building Sciences. Whole building design guide: secure/safe. Last updated September 28, 2017. Accessed June 8, 2022.
  4. National Institute of Building Sciences. Whole building design guide: occupant safety and health. Last updated January 3, 2017. Accessed June 8, 2022.
  5. Children’s Environmental Health Network, National Center for Health Housing, National Association for Family Child Care. Lead-safe toolkit for home-based child care. Accessed May 9, 2022.
  6. EPA, CPSC, HUD. 2019. Protect your family from lead in your home. Last updated June 2017. Accessed June 7, 2022. 

Standard last updated 09/27/2022.