FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – New requirements that help ensure child, family and staff safety during the COVID-19 emergency are in effect for Kentucky child care providers.
The new regulation, which was filed by the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), an agency of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), on Dec. 10 and took effect immediately, enhances other requirements for all regulated providers – child care centers, family child care homes and limited duration child care programs.
CHFS Secretary Eric Friedlander said many of the changes are a result of several public comments and discussions with stakeholders.
“These changes reflect our commitment to listening to the needs of providers and parents as we all continue to balance financial needs with protecting the health and safety of children, families and staff,” he said. “This pandemic has only emphasized the critical role that child care providers play in our economic and community infrastructure. Child care is a bridge for many parents – and the providers themselves – to navigate a successful career or track to complete their education.”
DCBS Commissioner Marta Miranda-Straub said her agency and the cabinet’s Office of the Inspector General and Department for Public Health (DPH) have worked hard to serve providers, including managing the distribution of $67 million in federal CARES Act funding designated for Kentucky child care.
“Throughout this challenging time, child care providers have evolved to make their centers safer and more accommodating for families, and we have strived to be responsive and supportive to them, with financial assistance, expert guidance and helpful resources,” she said. “Many of our child care staff are parents and grandparents themselves, and they genuinely serve in the best interests of both providers and families.”
“We understand the challenges providers have faced, the losses they have experienced and their difficulties in staying open,” Miranda-Straub said. “Because every facet of our commonwealth benefits from quality child care, we’ve taken several steps to help.”
The new regulation updates criteria for children’s mask wearing, including exemptions in accordance with DPH’s face covering regulations.
DCBS Division of Child Care Director Sarah Vanover said two guidelines stay the same: Children under age 2 do not wear masks, and children in first grade and older do wear masks, unless exempted.
Now, under the new regulation, when parents of children between age 3 and first grade do want their children to wear masks while in center, both parents and their providers must sign a child care face mask permission form to note agreement. Providers cannot mandate that all children age 3 through first grade wear masks.
Vanover said by signing the form, providers assure that they have the supervision available to make sure that children are safe while wearing a masks. And parents and guardians signing the form acknowledge that they will supply the masks and that it is the children’s responsibility, not the providers’, to ensure masks are worn.
“This is something parents need to talk about with their children at home to make sure children understand their role,” Vanover said. “Providers are not responsible for making sure that every child in the class wears the same mask, all day long, while also completing their other responsibilities. This is a team effort.”
Children who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have a disability or a health exemption do not have to wear masks. Children cannot wear lanyards with their masks because of risk of suffocation or strangulation.
Children shall not wear masks when they are napping because of a risk of suffocation.
“Sleep time is a mask-free time, and both parents and providers can emphasize this to children for safety,” Vanover said.
Children also shall not wear masks when they are engaged in vigorous play, when they’re outdoors and 6 feet apart from each other, when they are actively eating or drinking.
Vanover appears in a video explaining the new masking requirements to providers and families. Watch it here.
Other new provisions in the emergency regulations include an exception to keeping groups of children separate throughout the day for sibling groups if they are the only children in the center, references to the Kentucky Department of Education’s student transportation guidance for providing child transportation.