Child care

As children begin to nestle in for nap time, Kimberly Gil cradles 7-month-old Catayela Polina, center, as Tia Amelia Gil, right, closes a window shade July 9 at Tia Amelia’s Daycare in Union Gap.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families saw minimal walkouts Thursday to protest new rules bringing in-home child care providers in line with larger child care centers.

Thursday was the first day the new rules were in effect.

In an effort to persuade DCYF to postpone enforcement of the rules, some providers in Yakima and Eastern Washington said they planned to close their doors for the day.

But a demonstration in front of Yakima DCYF headquarters was called off Thursday morning, as not enough providers had confirmed they could attend, said Natalia Medina, a Yakima provider who was part of the child care negotiating team last year for SEIU Local 925, a state education union covering issues from early education through higher education.

Still, some closed their doors to send a message to the state, she said. In Yakima, about 40 of 249 in-home providers asked parents to find alternative care for the day, Medina said.

DCYF head of communications Debra Johnson said the department didn’t hear about many protests Thursday.

“It seems that we did not have a large walkout,” she said.

DCYF representatives have said that high-risk regulations such as safety requirements are largely unchanged and that the first year of implementation with be a transition phase. But providers have asked for written word that they won’t be penalized for any misalignment with the regulations.

The new rules, created by DCYF, SEIU Local 925 representatives and community members, cover regulations from safety practices to education and hygiene at in-home child care centers.

Esther de la Rosa, a Yakima-based provider for 21 years, was among those to close for the day. She said the changes in regulations were too much at once and providers needed more training.

She would prefer a gradual roll-out, implementing safety rules one month and playground equipment regulations the next, for example. Parents were supportive of her taking the day off, she said, and had voiced concern over increasing requirements for in-home centers.

In just over a year, the number of licensed child care providers in Yakima dropped from 416 to 352, as of July, according to ChildCare Aware, a nonprofit child care referral and advocacy group. Roughly 71 percent of those remaining are in-home providers.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka