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Home daycare regulations frustrating owners

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Story by Fatima Rahmatullah

Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- New home daycare regulations have owners frustrated. They say it's a typical example of government overkill.

Some home daycare owners feel they can't stay in business much longer. A new expanded agreement with the Fire Marshall's office now requires home daycares be inspected by a Fire Marshall instead of Department of Human Services' child care licensing staff.

"I'm a three star daycare and I abide by all the rules and every year they change something a little bit more and what they're going to do is drive us out of business home daycares," says daycare owner Carolyn Thomas.

Carolyn Thomas has owned a daycare for the last 39 years. Last week a state fire inspector told her she must make changes or close her door.

She says the changes are very expensive and will drive her out of business. According to the inspection, Thomas also has to add lighted exit signs. She says the changes will make her home impossible to sell in the future.

"They're safe in their homes without the lighted signs and all the two or three doors. They're safe here, they've been safe all these years," says Thomas.

Eyewitness News took her concerns to the State. Christopher Garrett works for the Department of Commerce & Insurance. He says all they want to do is make sure children are in a safe, fire code compliant facility.

"The report cites the need for Thomas Daycare to reconfigure a window to use for an emergency. Windows need to be large enough, not only for escape, but to allow fire fighters entry from a burning structure to help victims escape," says Garrett.

Garrett says actual daycare center guidelines are a lot tougher than home daycare guidelines.

"Home daycares are in homes and you'll find for the most part the codes are the same that are applied in regular homes," says Garrett.

Garrett adds licensing staff are experts in child care, not fire safety. That's why they are pleased that the Fire Marshall's office will be conducting the inspections.

Family home providers were notified last December of the change and meetings were held across Tennessee in January and February.

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