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Fairfax Co. asks Va. gov. to stop proposed English requirement for child care workers

A proposed state regulation would require day care providers to speak, read and write in English but some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors say that would limit child care options in Virginia. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday to block a proposed state regulation that would require that all workers be able to speak English at day care facilities used by families who receive state child care subsidies.

Board members are concerned that the regulation changes could limit child care options for families across the county.

“Should this regulation be approved, some locally permitted family child care providers could lose their ability to serve children who receive state child care subsidies, potentially reducing the supply of affordable child care for working families in Fairfax,” the board said in a letter to McAuliffe.

Virginia’s State Board of Social Services approved a rewrite of licensing requirements in June, and the new rules on training, background checks, home safety and other qualifications are currently under review by the governor’s office.

“The vendor, and any caregivers who are left alone with children, shall be able to speak, read, and write in English sufficient to understand the regulations and communicate with emergency service personnel, parents and children, the department, and local department personnel,” the proposed regulation reads.

Supervisor Jeff McKay said that the language requirement, which would be verified in new annual state inspections, “raises particular concerns for Fairfax County.”

“It is important to note that this is not a federal requirement, as federal regulations encourage states to support providers who are English language learners, and to respect and support children’s home language and culture,” McKay said.

Fairfax County is one of three local governments in the state that conducts local permitting and inspections of small, home-based day cares that serve four children or fewer.

“The County does not require providers in small home child care facilities to speak fluent English; rather, the county works with all providers, including those who are English language learners. Systems are in place to support providers, including offering technical assistance in multiple languages so that they may be able to comply with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations,” McKay said.

In other parts of the state, such small facilities had been exempt from some regulations in the past. The General Assembly has moved to tighten some background check rules and make other changes tied to federal licensing requirements. The new regulations are intended to meet the federal requirements and will allow Virginia to continue to receive about $119 million in annual federal money.

The new regulations would also require CPR and other health training, limit the number of children permitted to be cared for by a single person and change some rules related to the subsidy programs.

About 4,400 kids in Fairfax County benefit monthly from a combination of local, state and federal subsidies that help families afford child care, according to the board’s letter to the governor.

Families pay varying rates based on their income. The median income of families involved in the program in Fairfax County is about $29,000.

“Should this regulation be approved, some locally permitted family child care providers could lose their ability to serve children who receive state child care subsidies, potentially reducing the supply of affordable child care for working families in Fairfax,” the letter said.

If McAuliffe declines to rescind the English-language requirement, the county is asking for a waiver from the rule based on the county’s relatively rigorous inspection procedures that include two health and safety inspections each year and one fire safety inspection.

The regulations still must go through a public comment period after initial approval by the governor’s office.


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