Interpretation of law could change church child care programs - WKRN News 2

Interpretation of law could change church child care programs

Posted: Updated: Oct 23, 2012 11:15 AM

A new interpretation of a law regulating Parent's Day Out programs may force some churches to change or even eliminate what they have been offering for decades.

"Basically they are allowed to operate two days a week, six hours a day and for kids that are under school age," explained Nathalie Essex, Assistant General Counsel, for the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

She continued, "They were created with a special exemption in place that does not require them to actually under go the stringent licensing requirement as would be held for regular child care centers."

Mother's, or Parent's Day Out Programs are most often operated by churches as a ministry to their communities.

They allow moms, dads and many grandparents breaks during the week for errands or personal time.

Some programs however; have been running three to four days each week, while others offer more than one program.

According to Essex, to comply with the law, both have to change.

"We're doing our best to try to minimize the burden on the providers, as well as balance our concerns for the safety and health of the children," she said.

Bellevue Church of Christ operates a pre-school program which is different than Mother's Day Out programs.

The church offers classes to pre-schoolers five days a week.

Lisa Toungette is the director and explained why churches offer these programs.

"We view this as a ministry and we want to be an outreach in the community that we serve. And we want to be able to continue doing that"

But she told Nashville's News 2, a change like the one the attorney general's office recommends could force some churches to close their Mother's Day Out programs.

"Their options would be to increase their hours and become a pre-school or some of them may have to shut their doors," she said.

DHS said they are currently working on a solution with input from the programs, legislators and the attorney general's office.

Officials said the law could change, allowing the programs to run as they are now.

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