New proposed rules to impact every licensed day care in Texas

Mainspring School classroom on Aug. 11, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
Mainspring School classroom on Aug. 11, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every six years, the state of Texas has to evaluate its day care policy rules and determine if anything needs to be changed or amended. This year, childcare advocates want the new commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to lower the required worker to children ratio for all the age ranges.

At Mainspring Schools in south Austin, with the help of grants, the school is able to pay for one teacher for every four 2-year-old. That ratio is better than what the state recommends, which is one teacher for every 11 2-year-old.

Brenden Wells, the education director at Mainspring Schools, says the number of kids he has to keep his eyes on impacts their safety and how much they learn.

“With these age groups, you need one-on-one time and if you have a lot of kids in the class, with just one or two teachers, you have no time to do that,” explained Wells.

Many child advocacy groups have the same belief as Wells when it comes to a lower student to teacher ratio.

“Unfortunately, our current standards undermine both safety and early learning,” said Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children in an emailed statement to KXAN.

Rubin is calling on new Commissioner Henry “Hank” Whitman to take another look at current policies for child care.

“When a child care teacher is on her own with 11 2-year-olds, she’s more likely to overlook the kid wandering away with scissors and less likely to sit down to read and discuss Goodnight Moon with them,” Rubin said.

But the state says making day care facilities hire more people would raise the price for admission and push people to unlicensed daycares. Earlier this year, a 3-month-old boy died in an underground day care in Missouri City, Texas. Seventy-seven children died in unregulated day cares from 2010 to 2015, where workers don’t go through background checks.

“We want parents to avoid unregulated day care because it is dangerous for children, and we want to avoid taking any unnecessary actions that could encourage them to look for cheaper alternatives. It is not worth the risk,” Julie Moody from the Department of Family of Protective Services told KXAN. They’ve been urging all parents to put their kids into day cares regulated by the state.

“Having low ratios is expensive to do,” said CEO of Mainspring Schools Rudi Andrus. She agrees the cost to parents would go up, but she also says the child’s care would be better. “I think that’s one of the research proven factors of quality in early care education: is low ratios.”

Texas is among the states allowing the highest number of children per adult. Florida is just one of three states that allows a higher number of children per adult than Texas. Louisiana is the only state that allows a higher number of 2-year-olds. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of the states with the strictest ratios is New York, which requires a day care to have one adult for every five 2-year-olds and an adult for every nine 5-year-olds.

Texas Minimum Standard Ratios

Age Group Maximum # of Children 1 Caregiver Can Supervise
0-11 months 4
12-17 months 5
18-23 months 9
2 years 11
3 years 15
4 years 18
5 years 22

But the ratios are not the only thing HHSC is looking into for this round of rule changes. The ageny is also considering the following:

  • Requiring a food allergy emergency plan for each child with a known food allergy, and requiring a list of food allergies to be posted;
  • Requiring additional training topics be included in orientation and annual training, such as, emergency preparedness; preventing and controlling the spread of communicable diseases, including immunizations; administering medication, preventing and responding to emergencies due to food or allergic reaction; understanding building and physical premises safety; handling, storing, and disposing of hazardous materials; and precaution in transporting children;
  • Strengthening the emergency preparedness plans, including requiring drills for lock-down situation involving a volatile or endangering person on the premises;
  • Requiring the operation to develop policies for safe sleep for infants 12 months and younger;
  • Updating the immunization requirements;
  • Clarifying the crib requirements;
  • Not allowing children to sleep in restrictive devices; and
  • Not allowing e-cigarettes or any type of vapors.

The new rules will be published in the Texas Register likely in September. There will then be a public comment period for 30 days. If you want the state of Texas to know how you feel about these rules; email your comment to CCLRules@dfps.state.tx.us or submit them to: Texas Register Liason, Legal Services – 533, Department of Family and Protective Services E-611, P.O. Box 149030, Austin, Texas, 78714-9030.

Questions about the content of the proposal may be directed to Gerry Williams at (512) 438-5559 in DFPS’s Licensing Division.

Daycare Definitions:
Listed Family Home: A caregiver provides care in the caregiver’s own home for three or fewer children unrelated to the caregiver, birth through 13 years old, for at least four hours a day, three or more days a week, and more than nine consecutive weeks. The total number of children in care, including children related to the caregiver, may not exceed 12.
Registered Child-Care Home: A caregiver provides regular care in the caregiver’s own home for not more than six children from birth through 13 years old, and may provide care after school hours for not more than six additional elementary school children. The total number of children in care at any given time, including the children related to the caregiver, must not exceed 12.
Licensed Child-Care Home: The caregiver provides care in the caregiver’s own home for children from birth through 13 years old. The total number of children in care varies with the ages of the children, but the total number of children in care at any given time, including the children related to the caregiver, must not exceed 12.
Licensed Center: An operation providing care for seven or more children under 14 years old for less than 24 hours per day at a location other than the permit holder’s home

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