I am an educator and administrator who works at an early childhood center in Portland. I am writing in response to a Jan. 3 Maine Voices column about the importance of high-quality early childhood education.

On Jan. 17, I attended a public hearing before the Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee about proposed changes to child care regulations. Three proposals being considered by the committee this session – L.D. 1423, L.D. 1474 and L.D. 765 – will decrease the quality of programs available to parents while putting children at risk and allowing businesses to legally take advantage of parents desperate for child care.

Changes to rules that regulate health and safety practices should not be taken lightly. It may take a long time for bad practices and their effects on children to come to light.

Parents trust the caregivers they leave their children with, and young children cannot speak for themselves to say that something is wrong. Even being overcrowded and ignored for too long in a room full of other crying children could become the norm for a child, and parents could easily assume that the resultant changes in behavior at home are just part of being a toddler or preschooler. It might take a while before someone gets hurt or a parent asks a question, and all the while children have been experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.

Families searching for child care should have the confidence a license can provide that their children will be safe from hazards, safe from people who might do them harm, and protected from an overcrowded environment where their needs cannot be met. While I understand the desire to reduce regulations on small-business owners, this desire should not be prioritized over the well-being of our state’s young children.

Debby Adkins