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County Childcare still a challenge

By Teresa Crowder
Freelance Writer

Johnson County continues to face childcare challenges.
Concerned mom, Sally Snyder, along with other parents, fought to alleviate childcare issues in Johnson County with the Tennessee House Bill 2689, otherwise known as the “Parents Day Out” bill sponsored by Timothy Hill.
HB 2689, also known as the “Parents’ Day Out” bill, authorized programs operated by a religious institution or similar organization to provide 12-hour per week child care services in whatever block of time desired; requires the department of human services to create a $10 million fund to provide unlicensed care providers in rural counties with assistance in making facility upgrades for licensure; allows care providers in rural counties to provide child care for up to 10 children without being licensed if certain conditions are met. This bill was met with opposition and did not pass. However, during the pandemic, a portion of the law regarding religious institutions providing care went from providing care for 12 hours in 2 days to 12 hours in three days which is how the First Baptist Preschool ran for some 30 years.
Representative Scotty Campbell and Senator Lundberg moved forward with House Bill 0185. This bill permits an in-home childcare operation to provide for no more than 10 children at a time, obtain a waiver signed by parents to indicate the operation is not a licensed childcare facility, register with the department of human services, and maintain records on each child regarding child’s name and age, attendance records, addresses, phone numbers, and emergency contact information. This law was in effect as of January 1, 2022.
“There is a cap on the number of children you can babysit in your own home,” said Campbell. “Years ago, it was not uncommon for 12 children born to one set of parents. The department is refusing to cooperate in allowing us to increase the number of children you can babysit. So many families here need affordable childcare. We will continue working on this matter. Providing childcare would be a good business opportunity for someone.”
While these are small victories for the county, there is still much to do. The county is blessed with two state-licensed daycare centers – In the Beginning Lighthouse of Love and Laugher and Promises Academy. There are also school-based centers at Mountain City Elementary and Roan Creek Elementary. These centers continue to face challenges in staffing the centers as workers must be 21 or older.
Snyder continues to advocate for this need in our county. “I will keep updating with Nashville about what could be done to get legislation passed that would encourage additional daycare centers to open locally by grants for startup costs,” she said. “I am thankful and appreciative to former representative Timothy Hill, Representative Campbell, and Senator Lundberg for listening to our concerns and what was accomplished to help the FBC Preschool get back to its regular schedule. I hope one day that more can be done to help in-home babysitters and more daycare options to be made available to our rural area.”