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3 day cares close in Marion

Staff writer

Three day-care providers are closing their doors in Marion. Teresa Cady has moved to Salina. After 13 years as a day-care provider, Mary Rogers is going to work in Salina in the legal field; her last day of day-care is June 18. She is putting her degree in legal administration into use. Rogers usually had about six children under her care at any given time.

“It’s tough to leave the kids,” Rogers said. “I had some great parents and some great kids, but I decided to do something different.”

However, Christy Miller, who runs Munchkin Land in Marion said she is closing because of regulations.

Marion day-care providers must function around numerous regulations that come from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

One regulation is that children only consume 1 percent milk or skim milk while in a day-care setting; prevention of childhood obesity was cited as a reason for the rule.

Another was that day-care providers with a fireplace or wood burning stove need to install a sturdy barrier to prevent children burning themselves, even if there is no log in the fire place or the stove is not burning. A child protection gate is not an acceptable barrier.

“I don’t want any kids being burned but I don’t know how you can tell somebody what they can put in front of their fire place,” Marion day-care provider Lisa Adame said.

Including the regulation against the wood burning stove, Miller said the regulation that affects her the most is not being able to watch every child for every second.

Miller said she cares for between seven and 10 children per day, this usually includes one infant. Under state regulations, the infant requires nearly constant supervision. Miller would need to take the infant into the kitchen while she cooks for the other children; she does not feel this is safe.

Her usual procedure is to have the 2-year-olds take a nap while her preschool age children go into her backyard and play. Regulations say she needs to be observing children under the age of 5 when they are outside. She cannot leave the 2-year-olds alone either.

“I just can’t be in two places at once,” Miller said.

The expenses with these rules have become an issue. Miller cannot afford to hire another person to watch one-half of her children. She has a substitute, also a state mandated requirement, for special circumstances but that person would need to be licensed, having the education necessary — child development training as well as infant first aid and CPR — to work longer than three and half hours at a time.

Rogers and Adame also work alone.

“Some day care providers don’t leave their home,” Adame said. “If I were that person I would not be afraid.”

Recently hired in January, Saddee Nichols is the childcare supervisor for Marion County and is the person who conducts state-mandated yearly inspections of day-care providers. The inspections can be more frequent if a complaint is filed. Nichols said she has never encountered a situation where the state stripped a provider’s license for any infraction.

If Nichols observed a situation where a provider let children go into the backyard unsupervised she would write that up in her report, to be turned into the state as a citation. In the case of something like a lack of training or not having a protective barrier around a wood stove, the provider would have five days to rectify the offense. If the five-day deadline is impossible to meet, the provider can offer a written note to Nichols who can grant an extension.

Nichols said she has not encountered a situation where a fine was assessed for a violation. However, she does not deliver punishment — the state decides penalties based on Nichols reports.

“I’m the eyes and ears for the state when I do my assessment,” she said.

Nichols and Adame said receiving the proper training should not be a problem for Marion day-care providers. Debi Regier organizes monthly We Care meetings, which address regulations and guidelines with the state. Regier has been able to have teachers of classes come to the meetings to offer training to providers.

Miller said three day-care providers going out of business could result in a day-care shortage in Marion. She said the people who would be most affected would be single parents who may have to modify work schedules to accommodate childcare.

While three childcare centers have planned to close, Nichols said two more providers have filed with the Marion County Health Department to open. She said there are 30 day-care providers in the county.

Adame said the regulations will not make running a successful day-care any easier for Marion providers. She said the state regulations are meant to serve urban and rural areas alike.

“It’s difficult; it’s always been difficult for day-care providers,” Adame said. “I love taking care of kids; it’s something new every day. You have to love it to do it.

“A lot of the day-care providers in Marion are great,” she added. “They are the ones who care about the kids, who care about the parents, who love their job.”

Last modified June 7, 2012

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