Child care rules change has critics worried about Kan. kids’ safety

Kansas is proposing changes to licensed capacity for family child care. Courtesy Angie Carnes
Kansas is proposing changes to licensed capacity for family child care. Courtesy Angie Carnes

Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — Corinne Carr has about a half dozen seven parents the waiting list to enroll their children in her home day care business.

Changes pending with state regulators would let her take in more children, but she’s not headed in that direction.

“I don’t feel that it’s safe for the children,” she said.

Currently, a child care operation with two workers can take in four children younger than 18 months.

the state is looking at loosening the rules so that family child care
providers with just one worker could look after up to four toddlers, or
children under 12 months old, at once and still enroll two children
between the ages of 1 and 5 years old

That could mean one person could be caring for six children younger than 18 months.

“It’s not doable,” Carr said. “It’s not quality for those families and that child. It is just not quality care.”

changes aim to chip away at a chronic shortage in child care —
something virtually any working parent can appreciate. But some child
care providers say those looser limits could lead to overcrowded and
understaffed home day care providers that don’t account for things like
the difficulty between children who can feed themselves and those who
need to be fed by an adult.

Yet the scarcity of child care remains a pressing problem. Child Care Aware of Kansas estimated there are around 220,000 total children under six, as of Nov. 1, but just 44% of the demand met.

we have friends or family that (say) they’re pregnant,” said Angie
Carnes, “all of us will say, you need to start looking for child care,
like, right now.”

Some businesses do not have an opening until Fall 2023.

is the president of the Child Care Provider Coalition of Kansas and she
runs her own in-home business. She sees the need to help providers and
expand child care slots in the state, but she said the proposed changes
do little to cut demand and put children at risk.

She compared it
to a family who just had triplets. Nobody would assume that family could
care for all those children without help, so she questions why the
state thinks those providers can handle more children without help.

changes would only change the rules for in-home facilities and do not
touch on day care centers in a commercial business setting. It tweaks
the age range to slightly increase flexibility for those providers.

The proposals are still just that, proposals. State officials are still gathering feedback.

is outside of best practice,” said Melissa Schoenberger, field services
supervisor at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

says the changes wouldn’t expand capacity directly, but will give
providers more flexibility in the ages of children they can take in.
That, in turn, could help some businesses cut down on wait lists.

The agency couldn’t estimate when these changes might go into effect.

said the move is a compromise between best practice and finding
solutions for Kansas. The changes push infant capacity above what
neighboring states offer but keep providers within Kansas’ fire code.

“The proposed changes provide a balance between the need for safety and marketplace realities,” Schoenberger said.

Davydov, executive director of Child Care Aware of Kansas, said the
changes will help some families, but she says they are short-sighted.

gave $750- to $2,500- one-time grants to child care workers during the
pandemic Critics say that move, and the current proposal, are only
short-term measures.

Davydov says that Kansas needs to respond to an imminent shortage, but that the state needs to shift to more sustainable fixes.

instance, they say Kansas could developm more mentorship opportunities
to help new businesses thrive or possible grant funding to keep them
afloat. Some are interested in adjusting state reimbursement rates for
day care so businesses will earn more.

“We do need to think on a much bigger scale systemically, strategically,” Davydov said.

Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the
Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter
@Blaise_Mesa or email him at [email protected]

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