Jul 20, 2016Times Argus | Rutland Herald
Josh O'Gormon
New child care regulations have some providers concerned additional costs will force them to close their doors.
The new regulations set to go into effect in September — the first update in 15 years — have created uncertainty among providers, who are facing new mandates requiring facility upgrades and increased professional development.
“One of the challenges is that there has not been very strong communication about the interpretation of the regulations for child care providers, and they themselves struggle trying to read through the regulations and understanding the impact on their businesses and their ability to provide quality care,” said Robyn Freedner-Maguire, campaign director for Let’s Grow Kids, which advocates for high-quality affordable child care.
According to Freedner-Maguire, some providers are closing their doors in the face of the new costs.
Child care regulations for center-based programs have not been updated since 2001. Regulations for home-based programs have not been updated for 20 years.
The revised rules establish minimum requirements in areas such as health, safety, nutrition, staff qualifications and developmentally appropriate program activities.
“The regulations are very important. What many of us would want to see for our children is to make sure they have safe environments that support healthy development,” Freedner-Maguire said. “At the same time, child care providers should not be expected to meet these new requirements without support from the state.”
The cost of meeting the new regulations can be onerous for providers. In Vermont, the prevailing wage for a child care provider is about $11 an hour, which amounts to approximately $20,000 a year, well below the $24,000 poverty line for a family of four.
However, passing on the increased cost to parents represents a different kind of financial challenge.
According to numbers from Let’s Grow Kids, a two-parent, two-child household earning $47,000 a year earns too much for a state subsidy and can expect to spend 40 percent of its income on child care for two children.
The same family, earning $83,000 a year, can expect to spend 26 percent of its income on care.
“What we’re doing is creating a difficult environment for child care providers,” Freedner-Maguire said. “It’s a system that has been consistently underfunded by the state.”
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