The state is scrapping a proposal to bolster safety at day care centers by increasing the ratio of workers to children because of concerns about how much parents can afford to pay during tough economic times.
The Department of Family and Protective Services earlier this year, as part of a review of child care standards, recommended that the state raise the ratio to one adult per nine 2-year-olds, from the current one worker to 11 children, at Texas' roughly 9,300 day care centers.
The agency received hundreds of public comments criticizing the plan, including from day care owners and parents worried about the potential higher cost, the Austin American-Statesman reported Thursday.
"The overriding concern is: What's the effect on working parents who may be struggling right now to pay for day care?" said department spokesman Patrick Crimmins. "Maybe they've lost a job; maybe they've been laid off."
Higher day care rates would have been "almost a certainty," according to Crimmins, who said department officials feared that parents who could no longer afford their previous day care would choose unregulated providers.
Department figures show that between 2004 and 2008, 58 Texas children died in illegally operating home dare care centers, nearly twice as many deaths as there were in both licensed centers and licensed homes during the same time frame, the newspaper reported. The proposal was meant to increase safety at the centers by providing more oversight for the children.
The department will continue to recommend other changes to guarantee the health and safety of children, including requirements that sweetened drinks may not be served except on special occasions and that TV or computer time must be limited to two hours a day for children age 2 and older.
"Now is probably not the best time to make such a big change to the operation of day cares," said council chairwoman Gigi Bryant.
Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs has the final say.
"We want strong day care standards, but we're also concerned about doing anything that might increase the cost of child care during tight financial times," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for Suehs.
Max Taylor , president and CEO of the nonprofit Advance Child Care, which runs Candy Cane Corner centers in Corsicana and Ennis, said quality centers are still going to look at their ratios and do what must be done to make sure children are safe.
"This was going to put a hardship not only on the centers, but on the parents as well," said Taylor. "Quality centers are still going to look at their ratios and are going to do what they need to do to make sure that the children are safe."
Susan Craven, executive director of the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health, is seeking more training requirements for day care workers. Fewer children per supervisor is key to ensuring quality, she said.