The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is updating its child care licensing and safety regulations for the first time since 1991 . The updating process should be complete in early to late fall 2009.
"We're making improvements to the rules that are long outdated," said Cindy Hudson, section administrator for child care regulation and a member of the committee. "Rules we had 17 years ago may not be best for the children of today."
The committee of about 35 met last week in Columbia for the first of five meetings to try to begin evaluating the current policies.
The next meeting will take place on Oct. 7 at 1500 Vandiver Drive, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is open to the public. The committee will discuss enrollment, transportation, nutition and food. The meetings are held three weeks apart.
The three remaining meetings will be held Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 9. The meetings will be organized by category. For example, people from fire departments around the state would be invited to participate in a section dealing with fire safety regulations.
Committee members from Columbia include Hudson, Harry Kujath, director of the Missouri AfterSchool Network; Denise Mauzy, director of Open Initiative, Kathy Thornburg, Center for Family Policy and Research; Stacy Owsley, director of Head Start and Carolyn Stemmons, assistant director of Head Start.
The next step began in April, when letters were sent out to five areas — Columbia, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau, Springfield and St. Louis — to people there know about the focus groups sent out, and what they were trying to accomplish. The goal was to cover as much of the state as possible, Hudson said.
In June, N.A.R.A. traveled around the state gaining feedback thru public hearings, which led to the current draft that the committee is addressing in its meetings. N.A.R.A. also compared its draft with those of other states to provide the best update possible, Hudson said.
After the draft goes through the five meetings, it must go through the department, general counsel and J-Car (Joint Committee of Administrator Rules).
After the draft is finalized, it will be presented to the public the following June for feedback, which will be obtained through listening nights, where the committee will be available as a resource for any questions or concerns. After the summer, all the rules and regulations will officially be finalized.
"We really want what's best for the safety of the children," Hudson said.