Give TN Child Care Providers a voice in DHS regulations
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TN Child Care Providers need a tangible role in the making of licensing rules for Child Care Centers. It is crucial for us to have a say in the DHS regulations before we become so heavily regulated we can no longer afford to continue providing our communities with safe, licensed care.
First and foremost, I ask that a stop be put to the DHS proposed licensing changes for Child Care Services until Child Care Providers be given a more substantial role in the process.
I ask that applicable TN Codes be amended to allow Child Care Providers to select our own representatives for standards committees, fellow Child Care Providers that we trust to voice our concerns and be held accountable to their positions as our representative.
Furthermore, I ask that they be amended in such a way that Child Care Providers would make up the majority of DHS standards committees. While input from people with specialized knowledge and expertise about children and their development is beneficial it should not outweigh the voices of the Child Care Industry when it comes to creating the rules that we will be responsible for enforcing. Meeting the requirements to be licensed should not be confused with the best practices of the STARS rating system.
I have been a licensed Child Care Provider for the past thirty years. My center is in a rural area in Rhea County TN. In the last 10 years 7 child care centers have closed due to stricter regulations eating up already small profit margins until they couldn't afford to stay open. I now operate the only child care center in my area that provides care for multi-age groups, transports to and from schools, and is open year-round. Families in Rhea County rely on my center to care for their children so they can work.
In order for my center to comply with the newest proposed changes my costs to parents will need to increase by upwards of 20%. Many parents will not be able to afford this and will take their child to one of the unlicensed centers or "babysitters" that have been popping up since regulations have shut other licensed centers down. These unlicensed individuals are not held to even basic industry safety standards and are more likely to unexpectedly close or quit, leaving working parents in a bind.
The families and children of TN would be best served if DHS could work closely with Child Care Providers when creating industry regulations. Together we can keep current businesses open and profitable and give parents the ability to choose the best possible care for their child in a healthy competitive industry.
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