Family day care, foster homes needed in county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Greenville and Butler County are in serious need of more family daycare providers and foster homes.

&#8220We are seeing our businesses and industries grow. Our unemployment is the lowest it has been in years, but our day care offerings just haven't kept up with the demand,” said Lisa Nimmer of Healthy Kids Alabama, a non-profit program that assists and educates parents and caregivers with health, safety and childcare issues.

Nimmer and Delane Whittle, Quality Assurance Supervisor for the Resource Department of the Department of Human Resources, spoke to the Greenville Lions Club on Monday about some of the needs, concerns and requirements of both licensed daycare and foster homes in the county.

&#8220Childcare affects us all. Workers who do not have quality child care can not be as effective. There are always moms looking for good, affordable day care for their children,” Nimmer said.

Choosing a licensed family day care provider or center is important, Nimmer said.

&#8220If people are not licensed, there are no background checks in place. That person might be fine, but you don't know about the other people living in that home. They may not have the training and resources in place to adequately care for your child.”

Nimmer, herself a former home daycare provider, said there are many advantages to caring for children in the home.

&#8220You are treated as a small business and are eligible for a number of tax breaks as a family daycare provider. You can also participate in the USDA Child Nutrition Program through Healthy Kids, which reimburses you on the cost of food and snacks for the children,” Nimmer said.

&#8220That can be passed on to lower costs for the parents whose children are in daycare.”

The process to become a licensed family day care provider begins by picking up an application and booklet from the local DHR office, with everything fully reviewed by a DHR worker upon the form's return. A city license must also be obtained.

Background checks are a routine part of licensing a family day care.

&#8220The applicants must also pay for fingerprint cards for themselves and any adults living in the home with them and for a substitute,” Whittle said. There must be at least one substitute for every six children served.”

Among the requirements for family day care homes are working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, all cabinet doors locked, and an outside play area that is a minimum 300 square feet in size, with a fence at least four feet in height.

&#8220Children must have cots or beds for rest periods rather than sleeping on the floor, and no more than three children under the age of 12 months in a home. CPR and first aid training are also required,” Whittle said.

A total of 24 hours of training is required for licensing, with another 20 hours required on a yearly basis. Providers must also have a high school diploma or GED.

Family daycare homes must be reviewed every two years to keep their license.

&#8220Certainly you have to meet specific criteria and have a safe environment. However, this can be a very rewarding career if you enjoying being with children and staying at home,” Nimmer said.

There are currently only 20 licensed family daycare providers in the county.

There's an educational incentive for those pursuing such a career.

Family daycare providers in Alabama can actually get their associate's degree paid for through government programs, Nimmer said.

The goal is to have &#8220educated and prepared individuals caring for our children.”

While the YMCA and First Step are doing a fine job as daycare centers, Nimmer said, &#8220there is still a real need for more family day care providers in Butler County.”

An orientation session for those interested in becoming family day care providers is slated for 6:30 p.m. May 22 at the Greenville-Butler County Public Library.

For additional information, contact 334-382-2104, 1-888-762-4416 or call the local DHR office at 382-4400.

Foster homes are also in short supply in the county.

&#8220We have about 60 foster children in our county, and only 11 licensed foster homes. This means we have to send children to other counties,” said Whittle.

Foster homes are re-evaluated on a yearly basis. Many of the same in-home requirements for family day care also apply, although regular beds are required in foster homes.

While fingerprint checks are also required, &#8220the cost is covered by DHR, not the family members,” Whittle said.

Foster parents must undergo 30 hours of pre-training classes with an additional 15 hours of training required yearly.

&#8220There is a desperate need for foster parents in our area. We ask people to consider becoming a foster parent and making a difference in the life of a child or a teen,” Whittle said.

For additional information, contact the Butler County DHR at 382-4400.