Fairfax County day care operators say they have been able to survive by meeting a Virginia state standard under which they can care for up to 12 children, while ignoring a rarely enforced county statute that would limit them to caring for seven children.
But now, the county is threatening more rigorous enforcement of its standard, causing local day care providers to cry foul. At the same time, the county wants the day care providers to have a landline telephone installed in their homes. That has also aggravated the operators, who claim it is an unnecessary expense.
Home day care providers such as Susan Gallier, who has run her own licensed business for more than a decade, say the possible reduction in the number of children they can care for would leave thousands without the service.
"County day cares are already filled to capacity, and with these new restrictions, providers countywide would have to turn away thousands more," she said. "Plus, the economy has been so bad that it takes 12 kids to be able to make money to pay my bills, buy Christmas presents and support the center. We're concerned."
Despite the uproar from providers, the county doesn't plan to address any possible changes for months.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors does plan to address on Tuesday a number of other proposed changes to county law that will also affect the providers and their businesses. All providers will now need to take at least 16 hours of training in areas such as physical, intellectual and social child development, discipline techniques, and child abuse, as well as install carbon monoxide alarms in the care centers.
The new law will also require providers purchase landline telephones, which officials argue will better allow emergency responders to track the providers' location and provide more reliable service. But Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said the nearly $500 it will cost the providers to install and maintain their landlines is unnecessary.
"In today's world, I just don't think it makes a lot of sense," Herrity said.
The County Board is not expected to address any changes to the number of children permitted at home day cares until next year. The public hearing on Tuesday, to address training and household requirements, will begin at about 4 p.m.