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Colo. proposal would impose parameters on day care centers

Doll ethnicity also an issue in rules draft

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DENVER — It turns out even nannies can't hide from the nanny state.

A 98-page proposal to intensify regulations governing Colorado child care centers would require a previously unseen level of detail, including specifications for the number of crayons, paintbrushes and blocks per art kit, the racial composition of dolls and the number of nature scenes per classroom.

Doctors would need to sign off on the risks of drinking whole milk.

The proposed state regulations have alarmed day care providers and lawmakers, who say the rules would place an undue burden on struggling small businesses while expanding the ranks and authority of state regulators.

"This is nanny government in every sense of the word," said state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, Berthoud Republican. "It will increase the cost of doing business, pricing many families out of their day care options. And it will drive far too many child care facilities out of business."

He concluded: "In these tough times, new regulations should streamline government oversight, not load families and businesses with heavier burdens."

Added Aspen mother Meredith Carroll, who contributes to the Strollerderby blog at blogs.babble.com: "Telling daycare providers what they can and can't eat in front of the kids seems unduly prohibitive to me, and requiring dolls of at least three different races seems a bit silly (why not transgender or handicapped dolls, too, while they're at it?)."

The pending regulations, proposed by the Department of Human Services' Child Care Division, include the following for toddler and infant classrooms:

• All doll collections must represent at least three races.

• Children shall not be required to participate in an activity and must have a choice of at least two alternative activities.

• Children are not allowed to drink whole milk unless they have a written note from their health care provider.

• Each type of art material shall have a minimum of 10 pieces, such as 10 paints, 10 paintbrushes, 10 crayons.

• Each classroom shall have at least two sets of blocks with a minimum of 10 blocks per set.

• Each classroom shall have a variety of at least five accessories for each block and be representative of people, animals, transportation, etc.

In addition, the proposed rules say that "activities shall be culturally sensitive and represent diversity" and that "boys and girls shall not be restricted to gender-specific role-playing."

Republicans aren't the only ones reacting to the proposal. The Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado also has raised concerns about the ability of child care workers to comply with the stringent rules.

"This feels like micromanagement," state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat who also is a doctor, told the Colorado News Agency. "We can give advice, but it's ultimately up to the parents and child care providers to decide what's best."

Liz McDonough, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, stressed that the proposal is still in the comment stage and nothing has been decided.

The division has held about a dozen public hearings on the issue and plans to hold more, with the proposal to be modified at least twice before it reaches the state Board of Human Services.

The final version is unlikely to reach the board before January, and the board will solicit feedback again before taking a vote on the proposal, she said.

"We're in a very lengthy process and are in the midst of a 55-community tour to get feedback," Ms. McDonough said. "Why don't we wait to see what's implemented? We're in the middle of a process. It's not anywhere near finished."

The state Department of Human Services is run by Reggie Bicha, appointed in January by newly elected Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Mr. Bicha previously served as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

The exacting regulations were proposed in March, and the process may have predated Mr. Hickenlooper's tenure as governor.

Mr. Lundberg is calling on the governor to intervene and rein in what he called the "extreme micromanagement" of state day care centers.

"Remember, the governor establishes policy for these departments," Mr. Lundberg said on the "Caplis and Silverman" show on KOA-AM. "He could easily step in and say, 'OK, guys, let's put a little reasonable control on this.' "

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