Child care providers in Missouri feel like they don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to laws affecting their livelihood. To fix that, they’re organizing so they'll be ready when the next legislative session arrives.
The Missouri Licensed Child Care Association, a collaborative effort among multiple providers, is being formed in response to the fallout from Nathan’s Law. Under the law, licensed child care providers faced massive changes to their programs with less than a month’s notice. Family child care providers were first informed Aug. 2 that the law would force them to reduce the number of children they could care for. The law took effect Aug. 28.
Many providers felt they had no say in the drafting and eventual passage of the legislation.
Amanda Atkins, the driving force behind the association’s formation, said the idea came after a meeting with an attorney in Jefferson City.
“His biggest suggestion was to get organized,” Atkins said.
Providers did just that, and Atkins said they felt they’d be more powerful under one name.
“We’re all pretty isolated,” Atkins said. “We don’t have the ability to network like with other professions.”
Dean Linneman, division director for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, spoke to child care providers in a meeting Thursday. He said other groups regulated by the department, such as nursing homes and hospitals, had success advocating for their issues because they have associations.
There have been attempts to create child care associations such as Atkins’ in the past, but they had limited success. The Mid-MO Family Child Care Network Chapter, an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, was one such attempt.
The chapter’s goal was to provide a specialized space for the needs of family care providers, but it lacked the infrastructure to sustain itself. Pat Forward, its former president and a family child care provider, said turnout at meetings was as low as four to five people.
“Family providers are so busy,” Forward said. “Organizing a group like that is in our free time. You can’t do anything during the day when you have children.”
The chapter also gave in-person training to providers, but Forward said many providers have started taking online trainings because they fit better with their schedule. Licensed providers are required to complete a certain number of trainings per year.
“We feel like we don’t have a good support system,” Forward said. “We were blindsided by this whole bill that came out.”
Atkins said her association is exploring the possibility of restarting the mid-Missouri chapter but opening it up to all licensed providers instead of just family care providers.
“There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Atkins said. “We can support certain things for certain licenses without being to the detriment of other types of licensed providers.”
She said there has been much more discussion about child care in Missouri in recent months.
“We’re at the point right now where everyone had a job of being an amateur lobbyist,” Atkins said. “I don’t think people have been talking about the child care crisis as much as they are now.”
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.