Fairfax County home day-care providers could soon face a choice to lower the number of children they care for or apply for an expensive permit to maintain their current rolls.
The Commonwealth of Virginia allows for up to 12 children in a licensed day-care, but Fairfax County ordinances allow for only seven. Providers can apply for a special permit that allows for a maximum of 10.
The county law was rarely enforced, prompting many providers to take in a dozen kids, as allowed by their state licenses.
But in July, new state mandates required providers renewing their licenses or getting their first licenses to get formal documentation stating they were in compliance with county zoning laws.
These new rules have many providers worried they’ll have to turn away kids they’re already caring for. Over the summer, 200 child care providers and parents came out to air their grievances during a two-hour hearing in which some providers said they would have to close their doors or turn kids away.
County officials Tuesday discussed measures that might help keep providers from having to deny service to a significant number of children, but it will come at a cost.
In a new proposal, the county has increased the special-permit limit from 10 to 12 kids. But officials have chosen to keep the number of kids in facilities without the permit at seven.
Filing an application for a special permit is expected to cost between $435 and $1,100, but there’s no guarantee the Board of Zoning Appeals will sign off on a request.
During the Tuesday meeting, most of the Board of Supervisors members agreed these measures were for both children’s safety and the peace of mind of neighbors who don’t want to see increased traffic in their neighborhoods.
But Supervisor Pat Herrity, who organized the July hearing, said he didn’t think the increased special-permit limit would solve the county’s problems, especially when filing an expensive application didn’t ensure that they would get the special permit.
“My fear is we’re going to lose child care providers,” Herrity said. “Going before the Board of Zoning Appeals is not a simple thing … For them, it’s a roll of the dice.”
He said he feared that the daunting process of getting the proper permits would force providers to close or operate illegally with increased rolls.
“We’re going to start ending up with unlicensed day-care providers,” he said. “We don’t want that.”
Fairfax County has approximately 500 home day-care providers, according to county officials.
Public hearings on the permit process amendments are expected to be held in March.