Parents, child care providers, and advocates call for legislative review of proposed DHHS rules for family child care providers

AUGUSTA—A group of over 130 concerned parents, child care providers and advocates have filed a petition to delay emergency implementation of proposed family child care rules until they have a chance to undergo proper legislative review. The proposed changes to the existing rules by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) weaken the health and safety protections of children in child care and bypass the legislative process, setting a dangerous precedent for future rule changes.

In response, the Maine Children’s Alliance, Maine Women’s Lobby, the Family Child Care Association of Maine, and the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children have submitted an application for Legislative Review of Agency Rules, formally calling on the Joint-Standing Committee of Health and Human Services to thoroughly evaluate the proposed rules before they go into effect.

“The current proposed rules do not meet the Child Care and Development Block Grant requirements and, more importantly, lowers rather than raises the standard of care for Maine’s children,” said Tammy Dwyer, chair of the Family Child Care Association of Maine. “Rule changes that lower the standard of care for Maine’s children should not be enacted as ‘Emergency Rules.’”

Maine’s family child care rules seek to protect the health, safety and standard of care of Maine children in child care. Substantive changes to the existing rules usually require legislative review before implementation. DHHS took public comment on the proposed rules at a public hearing in May where they also announced their intent to adopt the rules in whole or part as emergency rules. Due to the significant changes that will impact children, parents, and family child care providers and staff, MCA, MWL, FCCAM, and MaineAEYC urge lawmakers put a moratorium on the emergency rules until the appropriate oversight can occur.

“Several proposed changes to the Family Child Care Rules have the potential to lower the quality of care and affect the safety and well-being of young children in Maine,” said Tara Williams, executive director of Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “At MaineAEYC we are concerned about the removal of many current rules, including sections outlining the rights of children and parents. We believe a legislative review of the proposed rules for Licensing of Family Child Care Providers is necessary.”

Family Child Care Providers offer a safe, quality and nurturing early learning environment for many young children and families throughout the state. The proposed rules and emergency implementation would hinder their ability to provide this critical service for working Maine parents and their children. For example, new staff should already have the proper CPR and First-Aid training before they begin employment. The emergency rules allow new staff to work for up to 12 months without CPR training. Other major concerns include changes to staff-to-child ratios and restrictions around parents right to visit and observe their child.

“The proposed rules would substantially and negatively alter our current regulations for family child care providers—putting the welfare and safety of Maine children at risk during key years of brain development and growth. They would also undermine parents’ rights. This is completely unacceptable,” stated Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “We should be working to strengthen our child care system and support parents seeking quality child care—not reversing progress we have already made. Our children are Maine’s future, and that is why these rules should not be allowed to go into effect as emergency rules and why we are urging further review by our legislators.”

Family child care providers are an important part of our child care system in Maine. The proposed rules, and the rush to put them into effect without legislative review, would undermine parents trust and take away parents’ rights to information and access. This would harm both providers and families.

“By signing this petition, Maine parents and child care providers have sent a clear message: the Department of Health and Human Service should promote safe, quality early learning experiences so our youngest children in child care can get the solid foundation they need to truly thrive,” said Rita Furlow, senior policy analyst at the Maine Children’s Alliance. “The proposed family child care rules bypass proper legislative channels, ultimately harming Maine children in child care.

Members of the Health & Human Services Committee will determine next steps in the process to review the family child care rules.

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