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Colorado isn't outlawing your unlicensed babysitter anymore

March 31, 2017 Updated: March 31, 2017 at 1:33 pm
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At The Hangout daycare, Tasha Fickas (center) gives affordable daycare to low income families. She plays with some of the kids at the daycare on Tuesday, November 20, 2012.. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Good news. Your neighborhood babysitter isn't going to jail, at least not for being an unlicensed childcare provider, thanks to Senate Bill 110.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law Thursday, broadening exemptions for home-based child-care providers.

About 55 percent of Colorado children younger than age 5 are tended to by means other than a licensed facility, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.

That could be a shared nanny, a friend, a lonely aunt or a neighbor (or perhaps a neighbor's teen-aged daughter).

The bill also increases the number of unrelated children a home-based caregiver can watch without DHS license from one to four, but no more than two of them can be younger than 2 years old.

Current law says no license is needed to keep one child or two or more siblings for up to 24 hours.

The new law exempts those caring for children if they are related to the caregiver, or, all the children, up to four, if they are from the same family.

By operating legally under the new law, those caring for children will avail themselves to training and other community resources to help them do a better job, DHS hopes.

They also could be eligible for the state's Colorado Child Care Assistance Program child care subsidy by getting a background check and submitting to annual health and safety reviews.

"Senate Bill 110 is common-sense legislation that expands legal child care options for families while keeping the safety of children in mind," Erin Mewhinney, director of DHS' Division of Early Care and Learning, said in a statement. "This legislation also highlights the importance of educating families about the differences between licensed, legally exempt and illegal child care options. We encourage families to seek quality child care programs that support the health, safety and growth of their children."

The bill passed the House on a 60-3 vote on March 14, and cleared the Senate 34-0 on Feb. 14. It was sponsored by Sens. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, along with Reps. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, and Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge.

The law will likely take effect on Aug. 9, and will have to be renewed in three years or it will expire in 2020, DHS noted.

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