Legislative committee hears Millett bill to undo harmful rule changes for child care providers

Posted: January 22, 2018 | Senator Millett

A bill by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, to repeal or amend new rules for child care providers that will be harmful to children and their families was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

LD 1748, An Act Regarding Rules Governing Family Child Care Provider Licensing, would reverse detrimental changes to rules implemented by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration last fall, while also restoring the need for providers to obtain written permission from a parent or guardian before taking children off-premises, and restoring the requirement that providers keep copies of state rules for child care providers and make them available to parents upon request.

The rules include a slew of changes that decrease the quality and safety of child care in the state. These rules will decrease parental involvement in a child’s care, as well as lower the level of quality care provided at any particular facility or program. For example, previous rules allowed parents to visit or observe their son or daughter while they are in child care whenever they choose. Under the new rules, such at-will visitation is prohibited. The new rules also allow for lower staff-to-child ratios, decreasing the amount of supervision for children in a childcare program.

“The backward nature of these changes flies in the face of what we know is necessary for our children to develop the strong foundations on which they build their entire future,” said Sen. Millett. “In an age when everyone from parents, to educators, to the Maine Chamber of Commerce agree that kids need a strong start in life both for their own sake and for the sake our state’s economy, policymakers should be doing our part to ensure all kids get that sturdy foundation.”

The bill also reinstates a list of “children’s rights,” which were largely eliminated in the administration’s new rules, and reinstates language relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (all references to children with disabilities had been removed).

Lastly, Sen. Millett’s bill would require that any future rule changes for child care in Maine be approved by the Legislature after a full, transparent public vetting process to determine whether the rules are of benefit to Maine families.

“With over 70 percent of parents with young children in Maine working, why would we do less and not more to ensure that all parents who need childcare in order to work can leave their children in care that they know and we know is of the highest quality?” said Chris Emmons, the President and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank and co-chair of the Maine Early Learning Investment Group. “If we are to strengthen the human and economic capital of Maine’s future, we must not back down from quality.”

Several child care providers; Sagadahoc County Sheriff and Fight Crime: Invest In Kids member Joel Merry; the Maine Children’s Alliance; the Maine Head Start Directors Association; the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children; the Maine Women’s Lobby; and Sue Mackey Andrews, the co-founder and facilitator for the Maine Resilience Building Network; also spoke in favor of LD 1748.

Sen. Millett is a co-chair of the Maine Children’s Caucus, which is a bipartisan, bicameral, issues-based caucus created to improve the effectiveness and reach of policy designed to positively impact children from birth to age eight, their families, and the communities in which they live in order to give every Maine child the right start in life, a safe and healthy environment, to nurture their early learning, and to enhance their well-being.

LD 1748 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.