The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved changes regulations on home day care centers, requiring more hours of training and fire safety measures.
During its meeting last week, the Board voted to adopt amendments to the Home Child Care Facilities Ordinance. Providers will now have to attend 16 hours of training instead of the original 12 and undergo tuberculosis screenings, as well as install carbon monoxide detectors to comply with county fire safety codes.
"These amendments reflect recommendations and input from a variety of county agencies and outline the best practices in the field," said Monica Jackson, speaking on behalf of the Child Care Advisory Council. "The proposed amendments are intended to support the health and safety of children and the council believes that the revision and further support that we are requesting will enhance the quality of care in our community."
The original amendments to the ordinance contained a requirement of a landline telephone, but Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) successfully passed a motion to make it optional, arguing that cell phones were more practical, reliable and affordable.
"I continue to believe that the landline requirement is a cost that’s not worth the benefit," he said, noting it could cost providers up to $500 a year.
Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) agreed.
"My main concern is with, especially the smaller childcare centers we have, it is a significant cost," McKay said. "It's not as if there isn't another technology available … I haven't had a landline in my house for probably 15 years."
But Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said that the safety of kids was more important than the cost of the landlines.
Fire officials said that when a 911 call comes in from a landline, an address for the call automatically pops up on the emergency operator’s computer screen, making it easier for safety personnel to locate the call. There’s currently no similar service for cell phones, fire officials said.
Supervisors said that home day care providers could certainly have landlines in their homes, but the Board just didn't want to say that they had to.
Herrity’s amendment to make landlines optional passed 6-3. Hudgins, Penny Gross (D-Mason) and Linda Smyth (D-Providence) voted against the amendment. Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) was absent from the meeting.
The Board did not discuss changes to the number of children a home day care facility is allowed to have, a topic of hot debate over the summer. It is expected to come up next year.