When a new child care law takes effect in Idaho on January 1, 2010, it will mark the culmination of a five-year, Democratic-led campaign to make sure our children are safer when their parents must work outside the home. No one worked harder on that effort than Rep. George Sayler, a Coeur d’Alene Democrat representing District 4 in Kootenai County.
Under current law, Idaho has no regulation for facilities watching six or fewer children, with minimal regulations for those caring between seven and 12 children and licensing only for centers with 13 or more children. The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies has consistently ranked Idaho last among the 50 states for these lax standards.But starting next year, employees of child-care facilities watching four or more children not related to the provider will have criminal background checks. There must be a working telephone, water safety measures and smoke detector in smaller facilities covering between seven and 13 children. Staff-child ratios will be strengthened at this level, too, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare can perform unannounced inspections.
Under the original bill co-sponsored by Sayler and Sen. Tim Corder, a Mountain Home Republican, those provisions would have applied to centers with four or more children, but social conservatives in the House Health & Welfare Committee watered down the bill. Still, Sayler said, “Idaho kids will be safer today than they were last year, and that’s good.” An estimated 70,000 Idaho children under age 5 are in some form of outside-the-home day care.