Fairfax Co. permit would allow providers to care for more children

The needs of parents and businesses are being pitted against the safety of children and red tape in Fairfax County.

At the center of it all – regulations regarding how child care providers do business.

Like so many child care providers, Yolanda Peralta is in it for one main reason: she loves kids.{ }

Peralta is licensed to have six children at her in-home facility in Fairfax, but chooses to limit her care to four at a time.

“It’s good for kids and I feel comfortable to care for them by myself,” she says.

But Fairfax County is considering a measure to expand the number of children allowed at in-home, licensed facilities to comply with new state zoning regulations. The state currently allows for up to 12 children per facility, but Fairfax County allows for only seven.

“It is tight right now,” Peralta says.

County Supervisor Pat Herrity is talking about the availability of child care for parents in Fairfax. He says if the county doesn’t make this change, many facilities may become unlicensed, forcing them to close and adding to the problem.

“Right now we have a shortage of providers,” he says. “The more we lose from the licensed field the worse we’re going to be.”

“The lower the number, the higher the quality,” says Wynne Busman.

Busman is with Infant Toddler Family Day Care, a group circulating a petition encouraging the county to reject the plan to expand. She fears an increase in cases like Teagan Sample, the 3-month-old girl who died last year at an over-crowded, unlicensed facility in Prince William County.

“The more kids in an environment, the more chances there are for an accident to occur,” she says.

Parents, daycare owners speak up

Decision makers who oversee child daycare regulations in the county say they may make some big changes.

“He’s really grown up with this group of children and they’re like family,” says Ruthie Dearson.

Dearson’s son Noah turns 3 this June and for most of his life, he’s been one of 12 kids in a home daycare.

“It would be upsetting if he had to leave or other children had to leave,” she says.

But that could happen if Fairfax County leaders don’t act. Daycare owners, workers and parents rocked the red Wednesday night to try to get them to.

“Plain and simple, the majority of us will go out of business,” says one owner.

Some daycare owners in Fairfax County say they are responsible for 12 children. But they say after years of lax enforcement, last year the county started enforcing an old rule limiting the number to seven, or 10 with a special permit.

Some say the county should just go along with a state rule allowing 12. But others disagree.

“I don’t think we should go any higher than what we are at,” says Wynne Busman, who runs a network of daycares.

Busman says in general, keeping the number lower is safer for kids. She says she’s heard horror stories from some poorly-run daycares.

“Such as a kid falling in the pool and the caregivers not noticing, and the child pulled out by two 6-year-old children.”