As a family child care professional for 10 years, I’d like to respond to the recent column by Sen. Rebecca Millett and Rep. Colleen Madigan. I’m recognizing the rising costs of care and the loss of almost 600 family child cares in Maine over the past decade.

The legislators neglected to logically link those events to the myriad unnecessary restrictions licensed child care professionals must endure.

Maine doesn’t allow anyone to care for more than two unrelated children without a license. Qualified, licensed child cares are closing because of excessive regulations that do not increase children’s health and safety, but do negatively impact small-business owners’ bottom line.

Licensed professionals deal with rules mandating the level of mulch under a climbing structure and defining children up to 3 as infants, driving up costs and forcing child cares out of ratio compliance. Experienced, licensed professionals have become expensive or have closed, forcing parents to turn to illegal operations.

When someone operates under the radar, there’s no telling if they have a criminal background, or if the building meets basic fire safety standards. L.D. 765 proposes that unregulated child care be registered as such and meet basic standards without having to satisfy excessive regulations. This will enhance the availability of qualified professionals, helping reduce costs and keep children safe.

The child care industry’s safety record in Maine is impressive. Consider this before allowing Maine’s 1,028 remaining family child cares to be driven out of business: Many of the changes the Health and Human Services Department has already made, as well as the ones proposed in L.D. 1423 and L.D. 1474, allow qualified child care professionals to remain a reliable resource for Maine’s workforce.

Affordable child care is vital to retaining and attracting working families and viable businesses to Maine. We cannot undercut this important part of Maine’s economic future with regulations that don’t improve Maine children’s health and safety.

Andrea Imrie