As more and more licensed child care providers close up shop, worsening the child care shortage, lawmakers are considering a number of reforms geared toward reversing that trend.
Sponsored by Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL-White Bear Township), HF1685, as amended, would allow child care providers to use a substitute caregiver for up to 300 hours in a year. The bill was held over by the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division Monday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.
Under current rules, a licensed family day care or group family day care provider may use a substitute caregiver to take over in their absence, up to 30 days in a 12-month period. Wazlawik said that by changing the substitute days to hours, providers would be able to make the most of their time off.
“In a lot of cases, caregivers are not taking full days off, they may take a couple hours in a day to go to an appointment,” she said. “This is an attempt to try to allow some greater flexibility by allowing providers to count hours instead of entire days.”
Julie Seydel, public policy director for the Minnesota Association of Child Care Professionals, supports the proposal, but said it doesn’t go far enough.
“We would like to see a minimum of 60 days,” she said. “This would allow providers to take a decent maternity leave to care for their newborn child, to care for an ailing family member or seek medical treatment for themselves.”
By allowing a provider to use a substitute for up to 60 days, it would keep families from scrambling for backup child care, which is difficult to find due to the provider shortage, Seydel said, adding that it would keep continuity in care of the children enrolled, and it would preserve the provider’s business during life-changing events.
Currently, providers are able to get a variance to the 30-day rule by appealing to their county licensor. The proposal would shift the variance authority from county licensors to the Department of Human Services, a move that Seydel opposes.
“DHS is basically going to be the ones to determine whether, they feel, what is happening in our lives is worthy of a variance, and I find that very demeaning,” she said.
Wazlawik said that she’s open to making modifications, including increasing the number of available substitute hours.