Springfield, Mo. child care provider weighs in on effects of new regulations

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - In-home child care providers now have new regulations to follow. The rules restrict the number of children that can be at licensed and unlicensed child cares.

Kristen Boyle has had an in-home child care business in Springfield for 12 years.

"It's a really great responsibility to care for other people's children," Boyle said.

Boyle is unlicensed on purpose. She only wants to keep a few kids at a time. She said being unlicensed does not mean illegal. While the state can make regulations she is legally supposed to follow, she said, officials cannot come into her home to enforce them.

Now, the rules are tougher for businesses like hers because of "Nathan's Law." After more than 10 years in the Missouri legislature, the bill became a law this year. It's named for a Missouri infant who died from suffocation in an unlicensed daycare in 2007.

Before Nathan's Law went into effect, unlicensed child care providers could care for four children and an unlimited number of relatives. Now, they can care for six children, but relatives under the age of five count toward that limit. Only three of those six children can be under the age of two.

Boyle said limiting the number of children is necessary, but she said some providers could lose business and be forced to close. That could make child care even harder to find.

"As it is right now, for under the age of two, there's not enough, and that's about to get worse," Boyle said.

The national organization, Child Care Aware lobbied for Nathan's Law. Statistics on its website show 141,038 child care spots are available in Missouri this year, but the number of children needing care is almost double that at 292,353. Robin Phillips, the CEO of Child Care Aware Missouri, said, when it comes to in-home care, quality is more important than quantity.

"This was a massive step to changing the landscape, really, so that our children are in more safe environments," Phillips said.

Phillips said her organization plans to advocate for more changes in the future, that would provide parents with more resources to find safe child care.

For unlicensed child care providers who do not comply with the new regulations under Nathan's Law, the penalty increased from an infraction to a misdemeanor.

Boyle said she hopes the stricter consequences will persuade more providers to comply with the law. However, she said education will be the key to safety. She said parents need to look for background checks and CPR training at potential child cares. She said parents should have face-to-face interviews with the provider, tour the home and get written policies on things like discipline and sleep practices.

Unlicensed child cares are not the only ones seeing new regulations because of Nathan's Law. Licensed child cares can have a maximum of 10 children. Now, all children who are related to the business operator are counted in the limit, regardless of age.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is the enforcing agency for child care regulations.

Click HERE for the entire text of House Bill 397, which included Nathan's Law, that Gov. Parson signed into law in July.

Click HERE for the statistics from Child Care Aware Missouri.