The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow home day care providers to care for up to 12 children with a special permit — a decision that came from a year’s worth of work and public meetings to get county code in sync with the state.
Supervisors voted 9-1 to raise the number of kids a provider can care for in a single-family home from 10 to 12 with a special permit.
With a license from the Commonwealth of Virginia, a provider can care for up to 12 children. But Fairfax County ordinances only allow for seven children, unless the provider applies for the special permit for 10.
The county rarely enforced the law and many providers took on a dozen children, arguing state law granted them that option. But new requirements from the state that say daycare applicants must be in line with county zoning laws forced the county to revisit the issue.
While the Board’s decision will raise the limit for permitted providers in a single family to 12 children, providers with a permit in townhomes will only be able to care for seven.
Without a permit, only five children will be allowed in townhomes and seven will be allowed in single-family homes.
“I think that this strikes a very good balance,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. “We’re providing the flexibility and the ability for home care providers to be in concert with state regulations. At the same time, it’s important that we continue to look out for the safety of our children and make sure that they’re getting safe and professional care.”
The application fee will be set at $435 for a special permit, much lower than the $1,100 initially discussed.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) voted in favor of raising the special permit number but still worried that the county would lose providers.
“I’m afraid it’s going to push people into an unlicensed situation and I think we want folks under regulation,” he said. “I worry about the cost to our staff and the ability to handle this bulk of applications coming through.”
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins was the sole vote against raising the permit number to 12 children. She said the county had to keep the desire to make childcare more available “in harmony with the community.”
“I really think the county ordinance was developed for a very clear reason,” she said. “It was about safety.”
In a statement after the decision, Bulova said that since these were home businesses, the surrounding community had to be protected as well.
The Board had to look out for “neighbors, who can be affected by a business operating next door, especially when it comes to parking,” Bulova said.
Tanja Hauter, a home day care provider in Reston, was in the board auditorium for the decision and worried she would have to drop some kids from her roll.
“We are homes providing care for children,” she said. “You’ve got to be so careful that don’t start turning us into centers because that’s not what parents want. They want home care.
“We’ve become extended members of these families.”
Bulova announced a town hall meeting covering the changes on July 20, followed by workshops to help providers get through the paperwork. It will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Fairfax County Government Center.