MANATEE — Home-based day cares in Manatee County must be licensed by the state starting next spring, according to a resolution passed Tuesday by county commissioners.
More than three years after the issue first came before them, commissioners voted 6-1 to require day cares with 10 or fewer children to submit to inspections by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
In 2007, the commission rejected the same resolution over concerns from providers that a licensing requirement would drive them out of business. The lone dissenting vote Tuesday came from commission Chairwoman Donna Hayes, who said she still has the same concerns.
Currently, home-based day cares in Manatee County may register with DCF, which saves them $25 annually and allows them to avoid the twice yearly inspections that licensed day cares undergo.
The new resolution will take effect April 1 and affect the county’s 60 registered home-based day cares. There are 25 licensed home-based day cares in Manatee County.
Representatives from the Early Learning Coalition, which administers state child care funding, told commissioners licensing is key to better regulation of home-based day cares. Registered day care operators are not required to be certified in first aid and infant/child CPR, they said. The fee for registering with the state is $25; licensing costs $50.
“There are no checks and balances in how they do business,” ELC Executive Director Paul Sharff said of registered day cares.
Home-based day care provider Brenda Virkus told commissioners her business would suffer because she would have to erect additional fencing at her home to comply with DCF regulations. Other providers may run into homeowners association prohibitions if they try to put fences in their yards, she said.
DCF requires a 4-foot fence at day cares along streets where the speed limit is 25 mph or greater.
“If you live on any street, unless you’re in a school zone, you’re going to have to have a fence because of the speed limit,” Virkus said.
The licensing issue resurfaced this past summer when a 13-year-old boy was accused of beating a 22-month-old child after the owner of Our Kids Home Daycare left him to care for five children.
Our Kids Home Daycare was registered, but not licensed, by the state. The incident led to a renewed call for more stringent regulation of home-based day cares.
Virkus argued that registered day cares are subject to DCF scrutiny if there are complaints and that the additional inspections would be a waste of state funds.
“Licensed doesn’t mean clean,” Virkus said. “It means you’ve got your paperwork together.”
ELC board member Jennifer Passmore countered that the safety of children should be the ultimate concern.
“Yes, it’s going to cost DCF more money. We’re saying it’s worth it,” Passmore said.
According to county staff, there are 11 Florida counties — including Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties — that require family day cares to be licensed by the state. Six counties, including the three regional counties, have their own licensing agencies.
Also Tuesday, the commission:
n Heard from county Administrator Ed Hunzeker, who said there has been little progress in negotiations with the Sarasota County and the town of Longboat Key over continuation of the Longboat Key Trolley. Hunzeker said Longboat Key representatives have not committed any funding to continue the trolley, which commissioners from both counties agreed to fund through the end of the year in an effort to come to an agreement about future cost sharing. The three groups are scheduled to meet Nov. 2.