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New Child Care Guidelines

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -

Only five states trust just one child care worker...to watch a half-dozen infants.

Arkansas is one of them.

New rules... being proposed for child care centers... would change that.

Many child care facilities are far exceeding the minimum standards set by the state.

But for those that are not, proposed regulations will force them to up their game...and possibly their prices.

Arkansas ranks 49th when it comes to the minimum licensing standards that day care operators must meet.

Lawmakers and the public are getting a look at proposed changes to those standards.

Some highlights: the staff to child ratio for newly licensed providers would be 1 to 5 for infants and 1 to 8 for toddlers. Existing providers would have two years to hire more staff if necessary.

A facility director would need a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or any bachelor's degree coupled with at least four years experience in the field. Existing directors would be grand-fathered in.

"There are a lot of things that can be done to improve quality without affecting price...or cost to parents," says David Griffin, Associate Director of Licensing for DCCECE. "But some things could have a cost. Staff/child ratio. More degrees, more training...could have a cost."

E. Christopher Lloyd is an associate professor of social work at U.A.L.R.

Early childhood development and child care is his area of expertise.

When it comes to cost, he says it's invest early or pay later.

"Children who do not come to first grade school ready are more likely to be involved with juvenile justice systems, more likely to be involved in child welfare systems and more likely to drop out of high school and never attend college," says Lloyd. "And those are significant expenses that we bear here in Arkansas already."

Lloyd says subsidies and tax rebates or deductions could be used to help working families if higher costs result.

Public meetings on these changes will be held through the end of the month. There is one Wednesday in Monticello.

Air date: June 4th, 2014