Illinois day care providers say policy change is needed to address staffing crisis



(The Center Square) – A group representing day care operators says more money is nice, but regulations need to change to address the staffing crisis.

The approved state budget that started July 1 appropriates $250 million for early child development. Dezeray Brookshire, state coordinator for Illinois Directors and Owners of Child Care Centers, said more money is appreciated.

“We are eternally grateful for all of the additional funds that providers have received over the course of the last three years, but if money were the answer to this, the staffing crisis would have been resolved by now,” Brookshire told WMAY.

Brookshire said recent data from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shows in 2022, there were 2,551 licensed programs, down more than 500 from the prior year. She said pending legislation could help alleviate the staffing crisis by focusing more on experience over education.

“If I had the choice for my son in an infant room to be with the woman who had been doing the job for 20 years or the person who just walked out of college, I would pick the person with 20 years experience every single time,” Brookshire said.

Among other things, House Bill 3676 provides that an early childhood teacher could either have completed college level early childhood education programs, or have more than 2,000 hours of child development experience as a teacher assistant in a day care center alongside enrolling in an accredited college program. Lawmakers could take up that change this fall.

Another change could come about after last week’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules hearing. The bipartisan panel of state legislators approved a targeted suspension of a rule from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that limits day care assistants from monitoring infants 24 months old and younger to 90 minutes rather than 3 hours at open and close of the day.

DCFS Deputy Director of Licensing Shontée Blankenship told JCAR the department has received more than 300 complaints about the issue since 2019. More than 290 were substantiated, she said.

“These numbers clearly show that leaving an assistant alone without a qualified teacher is a safety concern that cannot be ignored,” Blankenship said.

Brookshire said they have never been informed of such complaints and questioned the timeline as the rule allowing 3 hours of supervision came about in March 2020 because of the pandemic. She said going back to 90 minutes compounds the staffing issues for their members.

“Eighty percent of programs would either have to shut down classrooms or change their operating hours with the change in restrictions to the 3-hour rule,” Brookshire said.

Brookshire praised legislators who approved a targeted suspension of the rule. The JCAR is expected to revisit the issue next month. The issue could have been addressed by either HB3676 or House Bill 3566, but lawmakers said that was put on hold at the request of DCFS, which said it would address the issue in the rulemaking process.

Read the Black Chronicle Black History Edition for Free! Click Below

Read the Black Chronicle Black History Edition for Free! Click Below



Share post:


More like this