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An unintended effect of Missouri's new child care law is being fixed administratively for now, but the Missouri Legislature should look to a more permanent fix next year.

A new state law regulating the number of children younger than 5 allowed in unlicensed home-based day cares took effect Aug. 28.

The Columbia Missourian reported a loophole in the law is forcing operators of some facilities to turn away children.

Previously, unlicensed, in-home child care providers could care for four or fewer unrelated children and an unlimited number of related children, the Associated Press reported. Under the new law, unlicensed providers may care for only six children, and no more than three younger than 2. However, the day care operators' own children older than 5 are exempt from the total count.

The problem is that the law does not include that exemption for children older than 5 for licensed day care operators, who must count their own children, regardless of age. Some operations have been forced to turn away unrelated children so they can save slots for their own children, or those who are related to them.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has stepped in to help. They are giving variances to licensed care homes for related children ages 5 and older on a case-by-case basis. However, the fix isn't perfect. Not all licensed providers qualify for the variance, and grandchildren, for example, can't be included under the variance, the AP reported.

Some lawmakers appear content that the administrative fix is good enough.

However, a legislative fix is needed so it's clear, under state law, how many children — and how many related children — can be cared for by these businesses.

It shouldn't take much time for lawmakers to clarify this new law. It will help parents to keep their children in the facility of their choice, while giving licensed day care operations clear direction on how they can proceed while they try to earn a living.

News Tribune

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