Advocates are raising concerns about regulatory changes that would increase staff-to-children ratios in Iowa child care centers.
House Republicans have drafted a plan to let one employee oversee up to eight two-year-olds. The president of the Iowa Child Care Coalition says it would lead to more staff burn-out and turn-over, which ultimately would harm the brain development of two-year-olds.
“You are going to significantly stress them, which leads to additional behavior problems,” she says.
A child care task force assembled by Governor Reynolds recommended raising the staff-to-child ratio in day cares as one way to increase the number of available child care slots without hiring additional workers. Janee Harvey, a Department of Human Services administrator, says under current law, the ratio is one worker to a maximum of six two-year-olds. The agency is proposing a more modest increase of one staff member for up to seven two-year-olds.
“There is a high level of biting among that age, which does create risk to other kids,” she says. “That is not a good situation.”
And Harvey says many two-year-olds are not yet potty trained, creating a greater need for staff in a room of two year olds. The agency is proposing one day care worker be allowed to oversee up to 10 three year olds. House Speaker Pat Grassley says the proposals are options, not requirements, and part of a broader conversation about addressing workforce issues.
“I think we’re in a position where we have to be putting all of the options on the table…whether it’s child care, housing, attracting people to the state,” Grassley says. “We need to have to have these kind of hard conversations and find out what we really think the long term solutions and part of that plan is going to be.”
Grassley made his comments during an appearance on “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.