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Providers and Advocates at Odds over NY Childcare Legislation

June 23, 2008

Albany, NY — A vote is expected today on a measure to change home daycare standards in New York. Bills in both houses would increase the allowable child-to-staff ratio for in-home care.

The Office of Family and Children's Services says the change is needed to increase access to childcare at the 51,000 home-based providers across the state. But Jan Barbieri, executive director of the Child Care Council of Nassau, says increased access comes at too high a price - because it means less supervision for children.

"One person could have eight children, including two babies. Unless they plan on figuring out a way that they can add appendages to human beings, I don't know how this is going to be done, looking at children's well-being and families' well-being."

The legislation (bill numbers 10662a in the Assembly; 4545a in the Senate) also changes the status of children 18 to 24 months of age, no longer categorizing them as "infants," which eases the limitation on the number of babies that in-home caregivers can accept.

The measure is supported by "VOICE," the civil service employees' association that represents 17,000 in-home providers in the state. VOICE members believe infants in home care should be defined the same way as they are for childcare centers, but Barbieri notes center care involves a variety of higher standards. She faults the union for wanting parity only when it comes to revenue.

"Then start to look at parity in terms of square footage required in a childcare center, staff qualifications in a childcare center - they haven't gone near any of that. They're only looking at it through the lens of more income. You cannot do that at the risk of jeopardizing our children, putting them in jeopardy without adequate supervision."

The legislation also would double the licensing period for home-based care. Barbieri cautions going from two to four years for license renewal, means less oversight.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY