February 02, 2024

Oppose HB 153 S02 - Keep Children in Child Care Safe!

A damaging change has been made to Representative Susan Pulsipher’s HB 153. Initially aimed at providing tax relief for families with young children through an expanded state child tax credit, the bill was hijacked and the 2nd Substitute now adds a damaging provision allowing unlicensed child care providers to look after up to 8 children without safety training or home inspections.

While we appreciate the expanded background check measures for unlicensed providers, the bill lacks enforcement provisions for those operating without checks or failing them, as well as for existing unlicensed providers.

Why We Oppose HB 153 S02

This change jeopardizes the safety of Utah children by permitting unlicensed providers, without CPR and First Aid training or home inspections, to care for more children without oversight. This bill does not increase capacity for licensed family child care providers, rather, it specifically allows unlicensed individuals to watch more children.

Addressing child care licensing standards within a tax code bill is inappropriate. While expanding Utah’s Child Tax Credit was a key priority, it does not belong in the same bill that seeks to lower standards for child care quality.

Utah has seen previous attempts to increase the number of children allowed in unlicensed care. In 2021, HB 271 attempted to increase the number of children an unregulated provider could care for from 4 to 6. While it failed, it resurfaced in 2022 under HB 15, passing despite extensive opposition from providers and child safety groups, including Voices for Utah Children. HB 153 S02 takes this effort a step further by increasing the number of children from 6 to 8.

Why HB 153 S02 is Dangerous

This proposal disempowers parents, grandparents, foster parents, and working adults seeking safe child care options for their children. The lack of oversight and transparency in under-the-radar child care puts families in a precarious position, unable to access vital information about providers (e.g. verified background checks, safety violations and complaints, and guaranteed levels of basic safety training). While we appreciate the added provisions requiring background checks for unlicensed providers, the bill lacks enforcement and does not specify whether background check results will be available to the public.

Homeowners insurance doesn't cover providers caring for more than four unrelated children, and providers cannot access outside liability insurance without a license, leaving parents with minimal legal recourse if their child is hurt, injured, or killed while in care.

This change would solidify Utah’s place as the second-worst state nationally in this aspect, with only South Dakota allowing unregulated care for more than six children. If Utah is supposed to be a state that is good for kids and families, this bill sets us back. 

Why HB 153 S02 Doesn’t Help Fix the Child Care Crisis

Many child care experts predict that this change would actually decrease the supply of available child care in Utah. This proposal could incentivize some programs to reduce their size and drop their licenses, leaving fewer families with access to any care. 

Many proposals have been made to address Utah’s child care crisis, but lowering standards for the people who care for children is not, and should not be, one of them. This is not requested or supported by early care and learning professionals and experts. Parents seek easier access to good, affordable child care with certainty that their children are safe, happy, healthy, and learning. Parents and providers want the state to prioritize the well-being of Utah’s children, rather than advancing simplified policy proposals that divert attention from the genuine problem-solving needed to address the child care crisis.

Note: This blog was updated on 2/13/24 to reflect changes made to the bill.

Write to your elected officials here