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New Regulations Could be Hard on Fairfax Child Care Providers

New state regulations would require a zoning check for new and renewed licenses.

Proposed regulations and changes to licensing and zoning processes could place stress on Fairfax County in-home day care providers.

Approximately 200 childcare providers and parents packed into the board auditorium at Fairfax County Government Center Monday night for a two-hour town hall meeting hosted by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity and Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey.

Attendees were able to provide input and learn more about the changes, which Chairman Sharon Bulova .

Virginia state licenses allow for a maximum of 12 children per day care center. But Fairfax County only allows for seven per single-family home, or 10 with a special permit. Townhouses, apartments and mobile homes are allowed five children.

Many in-home day care providers are now worried that zoning ordinances will force them to lower the number of children they are allowed to take in; others are intimidated by a $1,100 nonrefundable filing fee for a special permit to allow more children – a permit they aren’t necessarily guaranteed to get.

Tereena Ford Jones, a county-licensed provider for 20 years, said these new regulations would make running her business difficult, and that the county had to raise the number of children allowed in townhomes and apartments.

“A lot of us are raising our families on this business,” she said. “It takes away from the simplicity of just inviting children into your home and providing a service for parents who want to have their child safe. We’re not baby sitters anymore. We’re pre-school.”

The county’s Department of Planning and Zoning must now sign off when providers renew their state licenses, or new providers get their first state license, in accordance with a new Virginia Department of Social Services requirement.

County staff is currently drafting an amendment to consider raising the number of children in a facility with a special permit from 10 to 12 while lowering the $1,100 fee, but it might take several months.

“There is a shortage of licensed providers and I don’t want to see that number shrink because of unnecessary regulation,” Herrity said in his opening remarks.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s reduced,” Herrity said later in the town hall. “I want you to know that current state-licensed child care providers will be given a grace period and will not be required to drop any children until the review of the zoning process is completed,” he said.

Felicia Kleinfelt, a parent who works sporadic hours and relies on flexible home-based day-care, worried that her kids would be at risk.

“If children are going to get cut, then that puts my children on the chopping block … to make more room for full time children,” she said. “It puts me in a position where I will either have to stop working or I’ll be basically paying to work, which doesn’t make any sense either. These are tough economic times and we do need to have flexibility so that people can have adequate child care. “

Frey said that the special permit allowed the county to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“We don’t allow many businesses in residentially zoned properties,” he said. “Childcare is one that is allowed in certain instances and up to certain numbers. … While there are locations where perhaps 12 children might be appropriate, there are certainly residential areas where 12 is not.”

The county’s Office for Children has also proposed amending a series of regulations, including criminal offenses that could prevent people from getting a license, and an annual 16 hours of training that would be phased in over three years.

Click here for complete details on the Office of Children’s proposed changes.

April July 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM
I'm not clear why the county feels they need to regulate to this extent.
david mentzer July 24, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Sounds as if the state already manages this process, I do not see the value added by Fairfax getting in the middle in this fashion. Or at least make the process simple - such as so many kids allowed per square foot of dedicated childcare space with appropriate ratio of providers?
c mcsorley July 24, 2012 at 02:11 PM
The state does license providers, but is it up to the county to enforce the regulations of the state? If so, I would think the county needs to have a say in how they are being tasked to enforce it. Fairfax County should make sure the process is easily navigated for the home daycare providers so they can operate within the law and not make the fee structures too costly for most to operate. Many families in Fairfax County rely on reputable home day care providers.
Viennian July 24, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I ran a home day care for 8 years in Vienna. The regulations increased every year to the point of being ridiculous. By the time I was done, the kids were only allowed to be in 1 room of my home. They weren't even permitted to eat in my kitchen! I have a beautiful large home in Vienna and their new rules didn't even allow the kids in the back yard to play just because I have a pool. The pool even has a electric pool cover but that wasn't good enough. What's next? Will providers have to wear masks and safety gloves during the day? I only did it so I could be with my children and help my sister out. I never even watched children outside of our family because between the two of us I was watching 8 kids. The pay is soooo small as it is, I can't see how further regulations will do any good.
Dalton July 24, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Murphy's law. If it can be messed up, the government surely will do it. The see another money tree.
Oakton voice July 25, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I tried working by myself with the limited number of children--I am an excellent provider with a teaching background. When you work by yourself with 5 kids, that aren't your own, for 10-12 hours a day, you can't be an excellent provider. I dare any provider challenge that with video taping for 4 weeks. It is custodial care and no one to hold you accountable for excellence- but your conscience (and give a few days with poopy diapers and whining, the conscience lowers its standards). I can uphold my standards of excellence by having quality assistants to help out during the day. I believe we offer the best of all worlds; small numbers vs. institutional care and low turnover and quality interactions. Fairfax County is threatening to make the process too difficult to maintain. They should be encouraging groups of 10-12 children with assistants,instead of forcing us to reduce numbers and go without help. The restrictions need to be with the smaller numbers and no help. What a backwards world we live in... don't do what is best for children, do what is best for the revenue system. I am all for zoning--just make it easier and feasible. 25 years and have never had a opening that wasn't filled as soon as it occurred. We NEED quality childcare in Fairfax-not burnout care or institutional care where children live in one room 12 hours a day.

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