Concerned that a change in state licensing requirements could leave some local parents scrambling to make new child-care arrangements, Fairfax County is reaching out to in-home day care providers to make sure they’re prepared.
Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity is hosting a town hall meeting about the issue Monday , a week after Chairman Sharon Bulova sent a letter to the county’s roughly 500 state-licensed, in-home day cares to warn them about an administrative change at the Virginia Department of Social Services. For the first time, providers must show they’re complying with local zoning rules.
State licenses allow for up to 12 children per day care. But the county allows only seven in single-family homes, or 10 with a special review and permit. For apartments, townhouses and mobile homes, the local limit with no review is lower -- five kids.
As it stands, county officials said, they typically don’t verify whether day cares are abiding by zoning limits unless neighbors complain. They’re interpreting the new state requirement to mean the county must now sign off.
Realistically, Bulova said in an interview, many day cares may only be meeting the state limit. That means many could be forced to cut the number of children they look after.
“It’s confusing,” Bulova said. “And if it’s confusing to us, think of someone who is new to this country and providing child care.”
The state change took effect July 1. In June, three supervisors recommended that the county implement a grace period to allow providers time to apply for permits for up to 10 children, as well as time to reduce through attrition the number of kids they care for. So far no end date for the grace period has been set.
The county also is looking into changing the local special permit limit to 12 to bring it in line with the state. That would likely take months, though, because it would require public notice and hearings.
Bulova said she hopes the county can avoid losing capacity and prevent a situation in which providers are caught off guard and parents are forced to quickly find new child care, which is in short supply.
“There’s a huge need,” she said. “And is there so much difference between 10 children and 12 children,” so long as concerns such as parking and traffic are addressed?
Herrity’s office said it expects more than 200 people to attend tonight’s town hall meeting, which is open to both providers and parents. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.