BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) filed legislation Wednesday to attempt to provide more access to childcare services in rural counties in Tennessee.
“The idea initiated with my constituents in Johnson County, they were having a tremendous issue with access to childcare,” Rep. Hill told News Channel 11. “The deeper we’ve looked into it, there’s been articles written about the entire state of Tennessee, as well as nationally, having a lack of access to affordable childcare.”
House Commerce Committee Chairman Hill filed the measure after researching and speaking with citizens of Johnson County who struggle to find reliable childcare. There’s only one licensed daycare facility in Johnson County where no more than 25 children can receive care.
“I’m sure he empathizes, he seems like a family man, I feel like he has listened, he’s had to hear a lot of phone calls from some really upset mothers the past little bit and he’s understood and he’s listened to us,” said Johnson County mom Sally Snyder. “It’s taken a while to get the bill where it needs to be, but it’s just the nature of how it happened.”
The proposed legislation would allow unlicensed care providers in counties with fewer than 50,000 citizens to care for children after undergoing 10 hours of training.
The bill requires that parents sign a waiver that acknowledges the care providers are unlicensed.
“The waiver program is very beneficial for our community because you know, it gives parents the option to say I want this person to keep my kids and I’m comfortable with that,” said Johnson County Commissioner Megan McEwen, who is also a mother.
The filed legislation also limits the number of children a provider may supervise to 10.
“In rural parts of Tennessee, the way the law is right now for in-home childcare facilities if you have more than four children in those in-home facilities, it requires licensure,” Hill said.
Mothers in Johnson County told News Channel 11 they support the bill.
“It is creating a safe environment because it’s allowing the parents to have a say who keeps their child. When I’m told that my child can’t stay with the in-home sitter that he was at because she is over the threshold of children allowed to stay there, then that’s because of the rules the state has put in place,” Snyder said.
Hill clarified Wednesday that this proposed bill would in-part allow a religious or non-profit organization to host a “parents day out,” which is already mentioned in Tennessee law. He added that this bill would now allow those organizations to watch kids for 12 hours a week with no limit to a certain amount of hours on a given day, as is now stipulated in state law.
The bill must first be introduced to the House and then be assigned to the appropriate standing committee for debate and discussion.