Small businesses in the child care industry will have to comply with strict new requirements beginning Feb. 1.
In theory, the rules seem hard to argue with: less television, no more sugary drinks, and “individualized social and emotional intervention supports for children who need them.” But in practice, these regulations on about 2,000 Colorado licensed child care centers could endanger the small businesses that cannot afford to adhere to them.
Approved by the Colorado Board of Human Services to go into effect Feb. 1, the new standards for state-licensed child care centers include the following:
– Prohibit sugar-sweetened drinks (and more than two servings of fruit juice per week)
– Enforce federal child care meal regulations, which are also undergoing changes
– Limit television and video time to 30 minutes per week for children older than 2 and ban it entirely for kids under 2, as well as during mealtimes
– For full-day care programs, require at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity for children at or above preschool age. Outdoor play for infants must be provided at least three times per week
– Provide access to early childhood mental health consultants
Approximately 90 percent of child care centers are independently owned small businesses, according to the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado. Such businesses could have a hard time complying with regulations that incur steep costs, especially at the health care level.
“The problem is there is no funding to help you with the children with behavioral and social needs,” child care business owner Sandy Bright told the Journal-Advocate. “And having to bring in mental health professionals before you disenroll, how do you pay for all that and still keep your other children safe?”
Republican state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, echoes Bright’s concerns. The new rules neglect to consider the high cost of running a child care center in Colorado, and they could cause a spike in costs for caring for children with emotional issues, he told the Associated Press.
Licensed centers will receive free training on how to handle such children, according to the state Office of Early Childhood.
Colorado’s rule shift comes in the midst of a nationwide regulatory binge. President Obama set an all-time record in 2015 with the Federal Register, which comprised an astounding 82,036 pages of new and proposed rules by year’s end.
The good news? Lundberg says this year’s changes for Colorado aren’t nearly as bad as the revisions he helped defeat in 2011, which would have regulated child care centers down to the number of crayons in a classroom.