MACo Wins Regulatory Reprieve for County Rec Camps

The Maryland State Department of Education will be withdrawing its proposed change to the definition of child care in new regulations, and returning to original language in the final regulation. MACo and its affiliate, the Maryland Association of County Parks and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) raised concerns with the effect of proposed changes on parks and recreation programs for school-age youth. The original language stated that school-age recreational and supplementary education programs operated by a local department of recreation and parks, law enforcement agency, or a public or nonpublic school, are not considered child care, if the primary purpose of the program is not custodial care. Parks and recreations departments offer many free and low-cost after school and before school programs to children, including sports programs and arts education.

MACo raised concerns of county governments in formal comments to the proposed action in April, stating,

Several Maryland county parks and recreation departments operate programs for school-age children, and others have an interest in starting them. MACo would like to ensure that your proposed action, which alters the definitions of child care and child care centers, considers our shared interest in providing opportunities for Maryland’s school-age youth.

The Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review requested a hold on the regulations based on county government concerns and in May, MACo Policy Staff and County Parks and Recreation Directors met with the Director of the Office of Childcare, The Chief of Child Care Licensing, and the Maryland State Department of Education’s Director of Education Policy and Government Relations and Assistant Attorney General in Baltimore. Through the discussion, MACo and recreation and parks representatives gained an understanding of current challenges in licensing for-profit child care providers, and shared concerns regarding the effect of the proposed change on the many county-sponsored before school and after school programs. MSDE noted in the discussion that it was not the Department’s  intent to require recreation and parks programs where custodial was not being provided to be licensed but to provide clarity since some departments read the current regulation as a complete exemption from licensing even if custodial care was being provided.  MSDE provided information during the discussion that 179 recreation and parks department programs across the state are currently licensed because they provide custodial care to children.

This week, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) sent a letter to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review requesting they lift the hold on the regulations, stating,

After a productive dialogue, MSDE, MACo, and the county recreation and parks departments have reached a resolution concerning the proposed regulation. MSDE has agreed to:

  • Reinstate the original language of the regulation, COMAR 13A.16.01.02B(14)(iii) that maintains the current exemption for recreation or supplementary education programs that do not provide custodial care for children, from the definition of childcare;
  • Issue guidance for county recreation and parks departments based on the current regulation so these departments can review the factors that the MSDE Office of Child Care – Licensing Branch considers when determining whether a recreation and parks program is providing custodial care; and
  • Work with MACo and the county recreation an dparks departments in teh future to discuss a possible regulatory language for recreation and parks programs, consistent with the childcare licensing statute, which may be proposed sometime in the future.

John R. Byrd, MACPRA President and Director of Howard County Recreation & Parks said in response to the withdraw of the new regulatory language,

This move marks a significant weight lifted off the shoulders of our county recreation and parks program directors. I welcome our continued collaboration with MACo and the Maryland State Department of Education.

MACo and MACPRA look forward to working with the Maryland State Department of Education on any needed updates to the regulation and continuing the county partnership in providing opportunities for Maryland’s school-age children.

For more information, read the proposed action of March 20, MACo’s Comments on Proposed Action on 13A.16.01 comment letter, MACo’s Letter to Secretary Lowery, and MSDE’s letter to the  Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review, and contact MACPRA.