State Day-Care Changes Needed, UT Professor Says

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Stricter day-care standards proposed by the state will provide better child care at only slightly higher costs, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor of child and family studies said Thursday.

Dr. Jan Allen said new standards proposed by the Tennessee Department of Human Services, including changing adult-to-child ratios and more staff training, will result in higher quality care.

The cost of the changes is not likely to be as high as some day-care directors estimated at a recent public hearing in Nashville, Allen said.

Allen said studies in Georgia, which initiated similar new day-care standards in 1991, showed cost increases of only $3 to $5 per week. Day-care directors have estimated cost increases as high as $12 per week.

Parents also fear additional costs will cause some day-care centers to close or cut back services. The Georgia studies, however, show the number of available infant spaces stayed the same, Allen said.

Studies of recent day-care standards upgraded in Ohio show the changes increased available day-care spaces and services, she said.

Allen said the Tennessee proposals include lowering infant-to-adult ratios from 5-to-1 to 4-to-1 and cutting group size from 10 to eight infants.

Much of the additional cost would be offset by proposals to increase the size of older children groups, Allen said. For example, groups of 5-year-olds could go from 20 children to 24 children, she said.

State proposals also include doubling the required six hours of annual training for day-care workers. Allen said the additional training would not raise costs because it can be acquired free through UT-Knoxville and other state agencies.

Allen said the changes are needed at Tennessee day-care centers, which have not had ratio and group-size standards upgraded in 10 years.

“The bottom line is that we’re talking about better day care for young children, and these are the children who will most be helped by quality child care experiences,” Allen said. “This is something that is 10 years overdue. This still will not put Tennessee at the top, but it will for the first time in 10 years help us make a step in that direction.”

Additional public hearings are set for Nov. 9 in Memphis and Nov. 16 in Knoxville.

Persons interested in learning more about the day-care proposals may call the Knoxville Child Care Information and Referral Service at UT at (423) 974-8911.

— Contact: Dr. Jan Allen (423-974-6273)

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