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Politics

Day care rules loosened, but not enough, lawmaker says

By MELANIE AVE
Published December 13, 2006


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PINELLAS PARK - A state lawmaker said he will continue his push to eliminate Pinellas County's 12-hour day care limit despite looser rules approved Tuesday.

The Pinellas County License Board agreed to allow some children to stay in family day care homes longer, but state Sen. Dennis Jones said the new rules don't go far enough.

Jones said he will file legislation to allow all children to be in care up to 24 hours. "You've got the facilities," Jones said. "Let's use them to their maximum."

Some parents and home day care providers agree with Jones. But Linda Tamanini, executive director of the license board, said the rules are best for children.

Added license board chairwoman Terri Hajian: "We're trying to balance what's best for the family against what's in the best interest of the child."

Pinellas day care rules are the most restrictive in the state, the result of a special act passed in 1961.

Children in licensed homes or centers are prohibited from being in the same day care for more than 12 hours daily unless families seek special variances, which were expanded Tuesday.

Only two of Florida's 67 counties - Pinellas and Palm Beach - require such special permission.

The license board agreed to allow parents to keep their children in a day care home - smaller operations located in private homes - longer than 12 hours and up to 24 hours if they have multiple employers, a medical condition or extended school and work hours.

Parents who work long shifts for one employer - such as nurses and firefighters -- were already able to seek an exception to the 12-hour rule.

Families wanting the exception must sign a sworn affidavit of their school and work schedules, which are kept on file at the licensing board offices. A physician's note is necessary for the medical variance.

The changes apply to 700 day care homes, which care for about 3,800 children, but not 420 child care centers, which are typically larger and oversee up to 39,000 children.

Jones, R-Seminole, says even looser rules are needed. "They are trying to keep things as it was in the 1960s and quite frankly, things have changed since the '60s," he said.

Tamanini said she fears Jones' approach would lead to the loosening of oversight of all day care facilities and open the door to round-the-clock centers.

Melanie Ave can be reached at 727 893-8813 or mave@sptimes.com.

 

 

 

[Last modified December 13, 2006, 05:50:59]


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