Fairfax Daycare Owners Urge Officials to Raise Child Limits
Providers fear they will be forced out of business if they can't care for more kids than the law allows.
Fairfax County home day care providers will have to wait a little longer to find out whether officials will raise the number of children they’re legally allowed to care for.
The county Planning Commission voted Wednesday night to defer its decision on a proposed permit that will let providers care for 12 kids instead of 10, the current limit with a permit.
With a license from the Commonwealth of Virginia, a provider can care for up to 12 children. But Fairfax County ordinances only allow for seven children, unless the provider applies for the special permit.
The county rarely enforced the law and many providers took on a dozen children, arguing they were allowed by the state.
But new regulations require the county to enforce the by-right number of seven, and providers are scared.
During a public hearing before the Planning Commission Wednesday, more than 100 people gathered in the auditorium at Fairfax County Government Center. The vast majority of the 25 people who spoke urged the commission to raise the permit limit and, in some cases, increase the by-right number, an issue that wasn’t even being considered.
“The amendment tonight has nothing to do with changing the by-right,” said James Hart, commissioner at-large, before the hearing began.
CeCe Holman, a daycare provider who spoke on behalf of the Herndon-Reston Family Child Care Association, said she would be forced to close her business if she has to drop kids from her roll.
“I love to help parents raise their children,” she said. “Please do not make me close my child care and quit the profession I love so dearly.”
Many providers also wanted the commission to lower the application fee for a permit, which staff recommended to stay around $910 to $1,100. The commission noted they were considering fees as low as $435.
One of the speakers was Kirsten Lukas, an Annandale day care provider who has looked into whether she would actually receive her special permit after a zoning inspection. She was told if she wanted to pass, there was approximately $5,000 worth of issues she needed to take care of on her property.
“That’s pretty significant especially knowing that I might not even be even be approved for 12 yet I’m still going to have to make all these changes,” she said. “I think some people potentially may go unlicensed, which would be another crisis that Fairfax County would have to deal with.”
Reston daycare provider Elizabeth Hijar said she would have to drop six families from her roster unless the special permit gets raised and her application is passed.
“The number of children that are going to be let go is incredible,” said Hijar, who has been caring for kids for 16 years.
Burke resident Jennifer Larkin sends her two children to a home day care. As a teacher, Larkin said she and her husband have had to deal with insurance costs and pay freezes, and their provider cuts them slack on their payments.
But if their daycare drops them from the roll, Larkin doesn’t know she’s going to do.
“We are financially strapped,” she said, eyes welling up during her testimony. “We cannot afford what we pay now for daycare.”
Although many speakers only highlighted the problems with the ordinance, Wynne Busman of Infant Toddler Family Day Care argued that officials should not raise the numbers anymore for fear of children’s safety.
“We create chaos and confusion when we put too many infants and toddlers in a large group,” Busman said, drawing boos from the audience.
Busman shared horror stories about children going unwatched by a swimming pool.
“We must consider the future of our children,” she said.
The planning commission deferred the vote on the matter to April 4. Public comment remains open, but there will not be another public hearing.
The Board of Supervisors is tentatively scheduled to hear the issue on May 14, with a public hearing tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. that day.
Do you think the number of children allowed in home daycare settings should be raised? Tell us in the comments.