Day-Care Controversy in Fairfax County

Home day care providers across Fairfax County, Va., are alarmed by a change in state policy that could force them to dramatically reduce the number of children in their care, but county elected leaders pledge to head off a child-care crisis.

Kathy Zatt’s state license allows her to care for up to 12 children, and sometimes she does with the help of an assistant at Lucky Stars Preschool Academy, located in her Lorton home. But her day care and hundreds of others are in jeopardy because of the new state rule that requires providers to make sure county zoning officials are aware of their home businesses.

A big disconnect was discovered: While the state allows 12 kids, the county only allows seven, though a special permit can raise the number  to 10.

“It’s going to be a hardship, I think, for families who are doing this business because you need to keep a certain amount of numbers to make your salaries, to pay your assistants, basically to keep my business open,” she said.

Susan Gallier, who has run her licensed home day-care operation for 12 years, already has 12 children booked for the fall, including six babies.

“A lot of people we were going to lose between six and two kids,” she said. “And just the thought of even telling their parents, “Two of you are going to have to leave,” and then choosing the two, how do you do that?”

Also, seeking the special permit to boost the number to 10  costs $1,100.

Several  Fairfax County supervisors, including Board Chairman Sharon Bulova, have eased the uproar a bit by promising a grace period. The new rule won’t be enforced until possible changes can be examined and possibly implemented, and Bulova hopes to match the county numbers with the state’s.

“From my own personal point of view, I think that raising the upper limit to 12 is an appropriate thing to do,” she said. “The last thing we want to do is to lose good child-care providers.”

Day-care providers will meet with county officials at a town hall meeting Monday.

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