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The Legislative Rules Review Committee approved new rules Tuesday for child care licensing from the Department of Social Services meant to address a severe child care shortage in the state.
- Increasing the number of children 5 or older who could be cared for by a single adult to 15, up from 10 in the previous rules.
- Allowing an in-home provider to care for up to three infants (up from two previously) and up to nine other children (keeping previous rules that up to four of those children can be younger than 2).
- Cutting the number of required training hours for child care providers from 20 a year to 10 (family day cares remain at six hours), with CPR and first aid training required in addition to the 10 hours.
- Expanding the allowed duties of a 14-year-old worker at a before or after-school program.
- Requiring providers to follow the safe sleep guidelines for infants and young children offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Removing the limit on a number of hours a substitute provider can be used.
- Removing restrictions on the number of hours a child can receive nighttime care.
The committee approved the rules 4-2, with the two no votes coming from Rep. Erin Healy, D-Sioux Falls, and Sen. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge.
The effort to rewrite the rules has been in the works since 2022, with listening sessions held throughout 2022 and 2023.
Several child care organizations opposed the rule changes when the DSS held a listening session in Sioux Falls last month, while other providers lauded the changes as “actionable” steps to address child care issues.
Those opposed to the rule changes were concerned about increased ratios, with Early Learner South Dakota Executive Director Kayla Klein pointing out that South Dakota already allowed more children to be supervised by a single adult than neighboring states. The training requirement change, meanwhile, would mean fewer hours for South Dakota providers than their counterparts in all neighboring states but Iowa, which requires 10 hours a year.
“The bottom line is that not only do incidents increase when you increase the number of children,” Klein told South Dakota Searchlight after the decision,” but infants and toddlers need a higher level of care and attention. When there’s three or four of them in one setting, that’s very hard to provide quality care at that level.”
Klein was also concerned that one provider for 10 or 12 children in an emergency setting, like a tornado or fire, would sturggle to get all children into a safe place — especially if three of them are immobile.
However, Gov. Kristi Noem celebrated the approved rule changes in a news release Tuesday.
“Every family should have the assurance that their children have access to safe, excellent, and affordable childcare,” Noem said in a statement. “It isn’t the government’s job to provide this for them, but we can make life easier for our childcare providers to meet the needs of South Dakota families.”
Kerri Tietgen, CEO of Embe, wrote a letter to DSS earlier this month supporting the changes. Two changes that are the most significant for the nonprofit child care provider based in Sioux Falls are the ratio changes for children aged 5 and older and the reduced training requirements.
The changed training requirements allow the nonprofit to be “more agile,” although Embe requires training exceeding licensing requirements in the state.
“EmBe provides a significant amount of on-the-job training via our Director of Curriculum and her team, behavior specialists and counselors from The Compass Center working in our operations daily, and leaders within our organization coaching,” Tietgen wrote. “I do believe that this coaching will be more impactful than the formal training at times. So, this change allows us, as a provider, to be more adaptable and responsive with the types of training deliverables within our organization.”
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