Family child care providers raise alarm at listening session about proposed licensing requirements

Family child care providers raise alarm at listening session about proposed licensing requirements

Family child care providers raise alarm at listening session about proposed licensing requirements

Family child care providers say the future of their profession is on the line.

The Department of Human Services in April released updated licensing standards for both family child care providers and child care centers. The state agency is now holding public listening sessions on the drafts.

“The current child care crisis is going to look like nothing if this goes through,” said Hollee Saville, a family child care provider in St. Michael and the president of the Minnesota Association of Childcare Professionals.

She was one of dozens of in-home providers who attended a listening session at St. Anthony High School Thursday night. Saville believes the draft standards are excessive.

“Requiring things that are just not feasible and just don’t happen in their own homes,” she said. “I couldn’t believe this was legitimate.”

The 97-page document includes updates to nearly every current statute. It includes specifics such as the number of certain types of toys each home must have, a requirement that refrigerators need to be cleaned and sanitized monthly and calls for bare soil to either be covered or tested for lead by a national EPA-recognized lab.

“It takes away a lot of the individuality, and love, and uniqueness that comes from a family child care home,” she said, while also pointing out it will require many providers to make substantial, costly changes. “It’s going to drive up the cost, I wouldn’t doubt it’s going to double the cost [of care].”

The Minnesota Legislature passed a law in 2021 and allocated federal funding to, in part, support updating the licensing standards for both family child care providers and child care centers. DHS contracted with the National Association for Regulatory Administration to help develop the updates.

“I was part of the task force and in the legislation, it clearly says that this needs to be fair to family child care, there is nothing in this draft that’s fair to family child care whatsoever,” said Julie Seydel, a licensed provider in Anoka County and the public policy director for the Minnesota Association of Child Care Professionals. “At first, I kind of laughed at it but then the anger started to hit and how disrespectful this seems to providers.”

According to DHS’ website, NARA solicited input from providers, licensors, parents, experts in child development and DHS staff, among others.

Listening sessions on the drafts are being held across the state. DHS told providers on Thursday evening, feedback will be reflected in an updated draft presented to the Legislature in 2025.

Clare Sanford with the Minnesota Child Care Association, which represents child care centers, wants to see at least another round of feedback from providers on the updated draft before it’s presented to lawmakers.

“That step alone would make providers feel immensely less concerned,” she said.

The draft updated standards for child care centers also include changes across nearly every existing regulation. It also adds requirements for attendance records, cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, and environmental health.

“We know so much more now about brain development, about how young children learn, about social, emotional and behavioral health” said Sanford. “The hope is these new standards will reflect updated knowledge in the field.”

She said one of the more important updates is to behavioral guidance, which covers discipline. The draft includes promoting positive behavior, for example.

“These draft standards go much deeper to really take the perspective of the child,” said Sanford. “Discipline is not about punishment, it’s about teaching.”

According to DHS on Thursday, the drafts are just the beginning of the conversation.

“I think the potential to get to something new and really good is there,” said Sanford. “Ideally, through engagement with providers and Human Services, we get to a point where the standards are clearer and easier for providers to follow and clearer and easier for families.”

DHS Inspector General Kulani Moti also released the following statement:

“The Department of Human Services recently released draft versions of revised licensing standards for family child care and child care centers specifically to gather public feedback and input. DHS is not implementing new licensing standards for child care providers at this time.   

These revised child care licensing standards are simply a draft. By sharing these draft licensing standards now, we hope this allows child care stakeholders the time to review these draft standards in their entirety and provide their feedback. We are hosting extensive feedback opportunities throughout the summer including an online survey, in-person regional meetings throughout the state and additional information gathering sessions. 

DHS will issue a second draft of standards after feedback is gathered. This second, updated draft is anticipated to be presented to the Legislature for consideration in 2025. The legislative process will include additional opportunities for public feedback.  

It’s too early to say what the fiscal impact of these revised standards may be. We want to hear from providers during the feedback process what regulations would increase costs, and what those costs might be. The next draft will certainly weigh and balance the cost and safety components of the regulations.”