Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Day-care program survives

Health board asks for reworked rules

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Board of Health on Tuesday rejected a staff proposal to kill a city day-care licensing program that has tougher standards than state regulations.

        Instead, the board members asked staff to come back in February with a proposal to rework the city rules to allow the program to continue despite a budget cut in half by City Council.

        “Obviously, the common desire is to maintain the higher standards,” said Dr. Todd Carran, chairman of the Board of Health.

        The city day-care program affects 88 centers within city borders that are used by parents who live in many parts of Greater Cincinnati, not just the city. The rules require more teachers, more staff training, higher credentials for center directors and more space for children than state regulations.

        However, the city regulations also duplicate parts of state law that have made the program a frequent target for budget cutters. In December, City Council voted to cut the program's 2001 budget from $120,000 to $60,000.

        Health Commissioner Malcolm Adcock told the board Tuesday that the program can't work with funding that would allow just one person to do the job. He recommended dropping the program while urging city day-care centers to seek voluntary national accreditation as a way to show they meet higher standards than state law requires.

        But the idea of dropping the city standards drew sharp criticism from day-care providers, Council man John Cranley and former Councilwoman Bobbie Sterne.

        “It's not duplicative. Ours is better,” Mrs. Sterne said. “It's unfortunate that there isn't more money. But we need to try to do the best we can for children with what we have.”

        Parents like the tougher city standards, critics said. For example, the state allows eight toddlers ages 30 months to 36 months per staff member. The city allows only five.

        The city requires all staff members to be trained in CPR and first aid. The state requires only one trained person to be on the premises.

        “This regulation is very important,” said Susan Stai-Zureick, director of early child services for the YMCA, which operates 16 day-care centers in the city. “How often do you see providers saying, "Please regulate me'?”


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