January 17, 2024

Senate committee passes bill to increase child care accessibility, remove regulations

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A Senate committee Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that aims to increase accessible and affordable child care options for Hoosiers families. - Barnaby Wasson/Flickr

A Senate committee Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that aims to increase accessible and affordable child care options for Hoosiers families.

Barnaby Wasson/Flickr

A Senate committee Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that aims to increase accessible and affordable child care options for Hoosiers families.

Senate Bill 2 would remove certain regulations for child care programs throughout the state and expand opportunities to work in child care.

Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) is the author of SB 2. He said the bill would increase benefits for child care workers and decrease barriers to entry into the profession.

“This is an infrastructure issue for the state of Indiana, and it affects every aspect of our economy and every aspect of business education,” he said. “And it's a big issue for the state. And we've done this in a way that I think increases access to child care, but doing it in a way that maintains quality and maintains safety of all of the youngsters that are attending child care.”

The bill would expedite the timeline for the Early Learning Advisory Committee to review child care regulations.

Sam Snideman is with the United Way of Central Indiana. He said fast-tracking these results will help providers grow and will better address the needs of families and employers.

“Senate Bill 2 language expediting ELAC’s review of the child care regulatory environment, combined with existing work to transform our state's quality rating system, will help ensure that the licensing and regulatory environment we have is tailored to the needs of all stakeholders in the system,” he said.

Others testifying called these measures “regulatory relief” and called this measure a “step in the right direction” for increased access to quality care.

The bill also expands opportunities for the children of child care workers to be eligible for certain assistance. It also gives child care workers currently employed by licensed child care programs eligibility for public subsidies.

Snideman said these benefits are important for retaining and attracting talent in the child care sector.

“Providing categorical access to child care assistance should be an attractive benefit for child care workers who currently face strong economic incentives to leave the profession,” he said. “And, it should provide an attractive inducement for child care workers who previously left the profession to come back into it.”

Charbonneau said the bill would also increase access to quality care by “streamlining the process” for public schools to participate in the On My Way Pre-K program – a state-sponsored pre-K program for low-income families.
 

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The measure would also provide increased accessibility to child care vouchers for the On My Way Pre-K program and Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) voucher program to child care employees.

Chris Lagoni is with the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association. He said this portion of the bill would positively impact those in rural areas.

"A lot of our members have expressed a lot of displeasure with the bureaucracy of applying for On My Way Pre-K," he said. "Section 12 of the bill makes this very easy and will help with the child care and On My Way Pre-K issues that exist in rural areas."

Other provisions in the bill include the creation of three child care micro centers – or centers that provide child care for three to 30 children – throughout the state in geographically diverse places where child care needs are “critical.”

The legislation would also reduce age requirements and allow certain 16- to 21-year-olds to help in various roles in certain classrooms and child care centers.

Sam Barnett is with the Indiana Afterschool Network. He testified in support of this language and said it would help expand career opportunities for younger Hoosiers.

“We specifically support the language in the bill, allowing qualified 16- to 17-year-olds to work in a school-aged child care facility under the supervision of a lead caregiver and allowing them to be counted in the child-to-staff ratios,” he said. “This presents a great opportunity to get our future school-aged child care professionals more hands-on experience in the field while they're still in high school.”

Lawmakers amended the bill to mandate child care providers younger than 18 years of age must be overseen and consistently accompanied by someone who is 18 years old or older. Despite this, there were lingering concerns about the age of caregivers.

Heather Harris is with the Indiana Association of the Education of Young Children. She said she is supportive of the bill, but worried about the responsibility the measure could give younger Hoosiers for child care.

“There is a bit of a concern about an 18-year-old member of a staff supervising the infant toddler room,” she said. “Sometimes you may have four to six infant toddlers, as I understand it, in a room. That's a lot for an 18-year-old, maybe, to block and tackle.”

Harris said she is understanding of the bill’s attempt to “balance the workforce pipeline,” but would like to see stronger language to address these issues.

The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee and now moves to the Appropriations Committee.
 


Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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