COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado lawmakers are hoping to improve the child care shortage in the state with a bill aimed at helping home-based providers.
House Bill 1222 would require the state to classify family child care homes as residences for purposes of licensure and local regulations, including zoning, land use development, fire and life safety, and building codes. The bill also adds a provision stating that whenever the state department of human services reviews and rewrites its rules concerning child care.
For years, Debbie Logan has provided quality and reliable child care to families in the community. Now has come the time to expand to have her seven-year-old grandson, but it's easier said than done.
"They're demanding we put sprinklers inside of the house. There is no need for sprinklers, the fire department didn't say there was a need for sprinklers. It's just kind of ridiculous that they would demand that. That would just ruin all of our furniture," said Logan. "We are on a lower level right now and we can just open the window and the kids can climb right out."
In order to move up to a Large License which would increase capacity, Logan says the state requires her to add sprinklers inside of her home.
"I heard from Denver that they had this problem but they got through it with an Amendment M. I looked it up and it addresses it but only for their county," said Logan. "I've been trying to get my Large Daycare License ever since August of last year. That's a long time and they are just putting us through so much red tape, it's just unbelievable all of the stuff that we have to do. I think we should have whatever we have now, and then prove that we have enough space."
With switching licenses, Logan would be able to have 12 children, but it would require a lot of jumping through hoops.
"There are 15 things we would have to do. My husband took care of most of them because I'm busy with the kids. You had to answer all of the complaints, the airport pattern, who cares we live here in this house, we raised our own kids. If it's good enough for our kids, why would it not be good enough for other kids," said Logan.
"Our rulebook is 425 pages long if you count all of them together. On top of that now, we have to have strict cleaning policies, entering and existing policies with parents and strangers, we spend hours cleaning afterward," said Sharon Wren.
Wren has been a licensed child care provider as long as Logan. She's also working on getting her Large License, but running into similar problems.
"It's been very difficult because I originally inquired about this right before COVID-19. I had a planning meeting and I was about to pull the trigger and all of this happened and my business shut down unexpectedly. I waited a while and now I'm trying to do this again and I'm hearing that they are basically not getting approved and the cost is over $2,200 to get the zoning for the Large License and they don't even have to approve you," said Wren.
She says the fire code regulation over sprinklers is also very concerning.
"They would like us to have sprinkle systems installed in our homes if we move from a small license to a large license because it changes what our zoning becomes. We become more of a commercial property rather than a residential one. Even if for me, I want to have a Large License where I can go instead of six kids, I can go up to 12, but I only intend to watch 8," said
According to the bill, the state has a shortage of licensed, safe, and affordable child care options.
"We've seen an exacerbated decline in the number of child care centers because people were staying at home. They kept their kids at home so these providers weren't making any money because they didn't have their kids come every day. We were already seeing drastic declines in the number of child care centers and the pandemic made it worse," said Rep. Alex Valdez (D) Denver.
At the same time, there is a growing need for child care in order to bolster the economy and allow parents to work.
"This bill aims to address that by creating one set of licensing requirements, making the process far easier while continuing to ensure health and safety of the kids. This bill reaches a nice balance that allows folks to get back into the business because now more than ever we need child care providers," said Valdez.
He says there a number of barriers for child care providers in the state.
"Each jurisdiction can be different. Some can require you to get a license first or approval from the zoning board. Once you get started then the HOA can go after you because you're running an at-home daycare. There are just so many things that are making running an at-home child care center harder than it used to be," said Valdez.
If passed, Valdez hopes the bill is an incentive for more people to join the field.
"Lowering barriers to entry is one step but getting folks to embrace providing childcare as a career is about so much more. I think demand is going to be increasing as we go back to work and I think that's going to be helpful," said Valdez.
Both Logan and Wren are watching the legislation closely with the status of their Large License in question.
"If I don't get it, I will have to say goodbye to one of my children just so I can have space. Even if he (grandson) isn't here every day, that's how important it is for me just to have him here," said Logan.
"It certainly helps to have the law on our side or a bill passed to make our jobs easier," said Wren.