Providers and families adversely affected by a new child care law spoke about their personal experiences and offered potential solutions to lawmakers on Tuesday.
As previously reported by the Missourian, the implementation of Nathan’s Law on Aug. 28 inadvertently pushed some children out of licensed child care homes, and in some cases, out of child care entirely.
Tuesday’s hearing before the General Laws Committee, held during a special session at the capitol, featured testimony from over 10 people.
One proposed solution would increase the number of children a single staff member could care for from 10 to 12. Several people said increasing the number of children a single staffer could care for would help mitigate the impact of providers having to count their own children. If the child-to-staff ratio was adjusted, some providers would not have to hire additional help.
Another potential solution was to make the variance system that the Department of Health and Senior Services is using more official.
“If variances are the solution, memorialize them,” Arthur Pistorio, an attorney at the hearing, said.
Currently, child care providers can apply for variances, or exceptions, for their own school-age children. Pistorio said granting variances is done on a case-by-case basis by local supervisors, who may have their own biases.
Rep. Sarah Walsh, R-Ashland, said she doesn’t believe all of the problems can be handled through variances because of the disincentives for providers to remain licensed.
“As you heard from the testimony from licensed child care providers, they’re considering dropping their license because it’s another burden on their business,” Walsh said.
She also said the restrictions on variances don’t always make logical sense. Grandchildren can’t be included in variances, even though they may be at the home less often than a provider’s own children.
“I’m hoping there’s a solution, because I do think it’s a problem,” said Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, the vice-chair of the committee, “I think there is a solution, but unfortunately I think there is going to be a time frame where people are affected, and I hope we can come to a solution fairly quickly.”
Taylor said penalizing licensed providers who are doing things the right way is the wrong approach to take.
Lawmakers can’t change the law until the spring session, but several representatives expressed willingness to work on new legislation next session to deal with the issue.
Walsh said she and several other legislators will be involved in that process.
“Today’s hearing was essential for the people who were impacted to have their voice so we can take that feedback and then develop solutions from that,” Walsh said.Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.