NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The clock is ticking for some Mothers' or Parents' Day Out -- or PDOs-- programs across the state. By next summer they either have to operate just two days a week or meet tough state guidelines.
This isn't because of any new laws. The Department of Human Services is reexamining existing law that dates back to the late 1970s. DHS officials say multiple legal opinions show the department has largely misinterpreted the law about PDOs for years.
The issue could leave many families with nowhere to turn.
"It's going to have a detrimental effect on many, many church-related programs, especially small ones and in small communities where those programs are probably the only part-time child care that's offered to families," said Bonnie Spear, Director of the Blakemore Children's Center, which is licensed to offer full time child care.
Spear says smaller operations that offer PDO programs three or four days a week face tough choices. It's not the few hundred dollar licensing fees, but the fire codes that would mean small churches would basically have to build or reconstruct their facilities or cut-down to only two days per week overall.
That could mean fewer child care options in small communities and possibly fewer jobs for child care workers, according to Spear who also sits on many boards concerning child care issues.
Spear says she thinks the regulations are important to keep kids safe, but worries children may suddenly go what they call "underground."
"There's a neighbor or a grandmother or somebody who has no experience in child care whatsoever and yeah they'll watch the neighbor's child for a few hours. That's not the best quality for the child," she went on to say.
DHS officials say they began reexamining the law in January 2011. They surveyed many child care providers, and is looking at a possible resolution, which includes changing the law.