Are you aware that the Office of Child and Family Services, Children’s Licensing and Investigation Services is actively drafting a Unified Child Care Licensing Rule with the intent of updating and clarifying current regulations and to meet federal requirements of the Child Care Development Block Grant?
FCCAM received a notification asking for feedback on a small subset of items. We looked at each question from the same prospective we viewed the work on the Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule adopted July 5, 2018, that Licensing Rules are and should remain minimum health and safety standards. They need to be able to be evaluated objectively and while being clear need to allow for the diversity of philosophies in child care and thus the programs offering care.
Here are the questions and our Board’s responses.
1. What would your recommendations be for minimum staff qualification requirements and/or additional qualification requirements for direct care staff and directors? Given the current difficulties with hiring staff, what are your thoughts on requiring all staff to have a minimum of a High School Diploma or GED?
While many see staffing to be primarily an area for concern for centers, more family child care programs are hiring staff. FCCAM agrees that as a minimum requirement a High School Diploma or GED is not unreasonable. This should be grandfathered for current providers in good standing that do not have their high school diploma or GED.
2. For Child Care Centers, would you be in favor of lowering the minimum age for staff to sixteen (16), if able to work only under direct supervision of someone eighteen (18) years and older?
This would align with the 2018 Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule. We do not see where centers would not benefit in the same way as family child care does. Discussion remains among Family Child Care providers about having the ability to hire 14 and 15 year olds as assistants. They would be supervised by someone 18 yrs or older and not considered in the ratio. The thought is this might be a positive step in building interest in early education from a student’s freshman year of high school. At age 16 yrs, they would still work under direct supervision, but would count in maintaining child/adult ratio.
3. Do you feel that a fifteen (15) year old should be allowed to work under direct supervision of someone that is eighteen (18) years or older in a Family Child Care? If so, what specific guidelines would they need to meet?
As per our response to question 2, FCCAM supports age 16 yrs for working under the direct supervision of someone 18 yrs or older and being counted in the child/adult ratio. If there was consideration of lowering the age we would recommend to consider age 14 yrs (if a freshman in high school). They would need to meet what is currently set out in the 2018 FCC Licensing Rule, but until age 16 yrs would not considered in the ratio. The thought is this might be a positive step in building interest in early education from a student’s freshman year of high school.
4. In school-age only programs, licensed for fifty (50) or more children, should the children be grouped into age categories such as Kindergarten – Second grade and Third grade through Fifth grade?
FCCAM feels strongly that centers need to be the primary voice here. We would add that there is value in mixed ages. We do believe the environment/physical facility has a role in this. In any mixed ages program there needs to be materials and equipment that meets the needs of all ages present. There also needs to be appropriate space for all ages present.
5. Do you have recommendations for a minimum amount of outdoor play time daily?
FCCAM finds this to be a good example of where less specific language works best. We feel the language used in the 2018 FCC Licensing Rule works well: Children must have regular time for outdoor play, barring weather that presents a risk to children. Indoor physical activity will be substituted for outdoor time when weather does not permit outdoor time.
6. Do you have any recommendations regarding safety on playgrounds?
FCCAM worked hard on reviewing and pushing back around the many issues/concerns that arose regarding playground safety in the 2018 FCC Licensing Rule. We understand centers are different environmentally, but would like to see language that allows mixing of ages within the outside space as long as ratio for each age group is met when full classes are out. With smaller groups at drop-off and pick-up should be looked at differently and have ratio similar to a fcc home. We are aware that representatives of centers have been working to develop language that will address concerns and needs regarding ratios and usage of outside playgrounds. They are the experts and should be the voices listened to for specific language for centers. FCCAM would not want to see any changes that would change the 2018 FCC Licensing Rule language for fcc playground safety.
7. Do you have any recommendations for mealtime requirements?
Again language in 2018 FCC Licensing Rule is broad enough to cover the different approaches of programs around food offering. This language should work for centers also.
8. Should the rule include a requirement for tummy time/floor time for infants, and should the rule include a limitation of time in infant equipment, such as swings, exersaucers or bouncy seats?
Yes. The 2018 FCC Licensing Rule states: infant or toddler’s position must be changed at least each half hour, when the child is awake. NAFCC accreditation limits time in equipment to no more than 20 minutes at a time. The 2018 FCC Licensing Rule does not specifically require tummy time/floor time. There is vague language about tummy time in NAFCC accreditation: when they are awake and alert, non-crawling infants spend short periods (3-5 minutes) in each half day, with the provider in supervised time on their tummies. Time may be increased as the infant develops and gains more head and neck control. If the state is looking to add specific language around tummy time, FCCAM finds the accreditation language is reasonable and would be a suggestion for language around this question.
9. Should swaddling be allowed in Child Care settings, and if so, up to what age?
This is not restricted in 2018 FCC Licensing Rule. FCCAM feels this should remain program and guardian choice. If the state has concerns and wishes to cover swaddling that could be done by having a requirement to be included as part of policies, that parents have to sign off on just like required under Section 5: Records, part C 11.
10. Do you have any recommendations regarding swimming and wading?
Language in 2018 FCC Licensing Rule covers it.
If you would like to include feedback about another area of rule that was not addressed above or would like to include feedback regarding changes you recommend be included or removed in rule, please feel free to include in your response.
Currently the FCC Licensing Rule requires 12 hrs of training annually. CPR/First Aid can now be included to meet that total. FCCAM was concerned with this change in the 2018 FCC Licensing Rule. We support an increase in required annual training hours to support improvement in the quality of care for children. Center staff are required to earn more hours, prorated to hours worked for those working part-time. NAFCC requires 30 hours for fcc providers in accredited program. While it would be a big jump in required training to move to 30 hrs, the Unified Child Care Licensing Rule would be a good place to require equal training hours for center staff and family child care providers. Currently it is possible to attend free trainings offered online and/or face-to-face monthly around the state. It would be reasonable to require 24 hrs of annual training. This change would impact the higher level QRIS requirements, but where that is undergoing changes the impact should be easily handled.
FCCAM Public Policy Committee also had a joint conference call with MaineAEYC to discussion the thoughts of both associations. Our thought are similar on most questions.
We are also aware that for some of our members the idea of having to earn more than 12 hours of training is going to lead to some further discussion around why we have raised this within our response. If the state does expect to address training hours we will be asking for specific feedback from members, so we can move the discussion forward and best serve family child care professionals.