DHHS Proposal Would Decrease Staffing Ratios At Child Care Facilities

Jul 21, 2017

Child care advocates are voicing opposition to proposed changes in regulations governing in-home child care facilities.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it wants to streamline an assortment of policies in order to increase access to affordable child care, particularly for parents in rural areas of Maine. The proposals are scheduled for a public hearing before a legislative committee Thursday evening.

Rita Furlow, a senior policy analyst with the Maine Children’s Alliance, said she is troubled by many aspects of the proposal, which would change staff-to-child ratios and eliminate requirements that new employees be trained in CPR and first aid.

Furlow said she is also critical of the department’s plan to relax a policy that requires state child care inspectors to make an unannounced visit to an in-home child care facility within 18 months of being licensed.

“There are statutory provisions, there are federal provisions that require annual unannounced visits, but the new rules seem to relax that and to give the department the option of saying we may do these annual unannounced visits,” she said. “That is really, I think, a weakening of the standards.”

Furlow and other advocates are expected to testify against portions of the proposed changes before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee Thursday night.

Efforts to reach DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards were not successful, but the department has stated in published news reports that it is recommending the changes as a way to streamline in-home child care services, to increase access for rural Maine parents and to increase the number of child care providers statewide.

This story was originally published on July 20, 2017 at 3:21 p.m. ET.