An advisory group approved new rules for drop-in day-care centers in Utah Monday.
The most significant change would decrease the number of children one provider can care for from 12 to eight.Currently, providers who have children for less than four hours a day could have 12 children to one staff member, providing no more than two of the children were under the age of 2.
Beverly Welsh, owner of three drop-in centers called The Children's Club, said the proposed changes will be costly to businesses like hers, which would have to pay for additional staff.
Tracy Halverson, a member of the Child Care Licensing Advisory Committee and an in-home day-care provider, said drop-in centers should not be allowed to have higher children-to-staff ratios than other day-care providers that are required to have two adults for 12 children.
The new rules drafted by the Utah Department of Health say if four or more children are under the age of 4, the drop-in center must have two caregivers. And if there are only two caregivers, the center cannot have more than four children under the age of 2.
Alda Jones who does child-care resource and referral for Family Connections in Orem, said drop-in care can be even more difficult than full-time care, especially when young children are left with unfamiliar caregivers.
"We need to protect children in those settings," Jones said.
Lawmakers mandated that short-term centers, which are sometimes attached to other businesses like bowling alleys or spas, be licensed effective in 1996, two years after a South Jordan boy wandered away from a drop-in care center and drowned in a nearby canal.
The changes approved by the advisory board Monday will be forwarded to the Department of Health's legal counsel and then to Director Rod Betit.
The department will then hold educational conferences with the owners of short-term centers and create a cost-benefit analysis.
Providers will then have a 30-day comment period before the rules are accepted or modified by the Department of Health.