Note: The following is a joint press release from Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine Children’s Alliance, Family Child Care Association of Maine, and Maine Association for the Education of Young Children.
HHS Committee to Address Calls for Legislative Review of Proposed Family Child Care Rules
The Health & Human Services Committee will meet Thursday at 4 PM to discuss the petition put forth by Maine parents, child care providers and advocates in opposition to the proposed rules.
AUGUSTA—In response to a petition filed by a group of parents, child care providers and advocates, the Legislative Joint-Standing Committee on Health and Human Services will meet on Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 4:00 P.M. to discuss the emergency family child care rules proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed rules weaken the health and safety of children in child care, fail to comply with federal grant requirements and bypass the legislative process.
On Thursday, committee members will have the opportunity to review specific objections to the rule changes submitted by the Maine Children’s Alliance, the Maine Women’s Lobby, the Family Child Care Association of Maine, and the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, and seek responses from the DHHS.
Tara Williams, executive director for the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, noted her concerns, “Our organizations, along with many parents and child care providers, believe a legislative review of the proposed rules is necessary because the proposed changes could lower the quality of care for Maine children, affecting their safety and well-being.”
The group of over 130 parents, child care providers and advocates have expressed deep concerns about the changes to existing rules and the way in which they will be implemented. Maine’s family child care rules are designed to promote the health, safety and development of children in child care while their parents are at work or attending school. Traditionally, major changes to the rules are subject to legislative review prior to implementation. However, in this case, DHHS intends to adopt the rules as emergency rules, meaning they will go into effect before lawmakers have a chance to review them.
There is one section of rules that these organizations recognize does need to go into effect immediately—those rules related to federal requirements for background checks. These requirements need to go into effect for all child care providers by September 30, 2017.
“The Department is trying to go around the legislative review process by declaring an emergency,” said Rita Furlow, senior policy analyst for the Maine Children’s Alliance. “Such substantial changes to rules meant to protect the safety and welfare of children should not be made lightly. That’s why we called for the committee to meet even though the legislative session is nearing its end.”
In Maine, over 70 percent of children are under the age of six have all available parents in the workforce and are likely in need of child care. Many of these families rely on family child care providers to provide that care. Family child care providers offer a safe, quality and nurturing early learning environment for many young children throughout the state. Provisions in the new rules could change this.
“With the proposed rules, the standard of care for Maine children would be lowered,” said Tammy Dwyer, chair of the Family Child Care Association of Maine. “The current rules have been in place since 2009, and FCCAM asks the committee to maintain them until the proposed rules can be thoroughly reviewed by the Health and Human Services Committee as is usual.”
Some of the most significant changes to the current family child care rules include:
- Major changes to staff-child ratios and supervision These ratios are arguably one of the most important quality indicators of care.
- Removal of the “Rights for Children in Family Child Care Programs” section;
- Removal of the right of the parent to visit and observe the program during the hours of operation;
- Basic CPR and First-Aid training requirements.
“Not only would these rule changes put our youngest Mainers at risk, they also take away parental rights,” said Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “Parents would lose the right to visit their child care provider at any time during the day or their right to be informed of licensing deficiencies. Parents cannot have peace of mind when they are working or going to school if they don’t have these basic rights.”
The Health and Human Services Committee will meet in the Cross State Office Building, room 202 at 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, July 20. The meeting is open to the public and parents, providers and advocates are encouraged to attend. Rita Furlow of the Maine Children’s Alliance, Tara Williams of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, and Kathy Kilrain del Rio of the Maine Women’s Lobby will be available to speak with reporters.
If you would like to take action on these dangerous rule changes, contact Victoria at email@example.com.