Childcare providers meet with DHSS about changes
Owners and staff members of local daycare centers who participate in the Child Care Program offered by the Dept. of Human and Social Services (DHSS) were at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center yesterday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) — something that’s done annually — and to hear about changes that are in store for 2014, one of them being flat rate payments.
Last month, DHSS paid out $91,346.21 for child care services, in that all daycare centers that participate in the DHSS Child Care Program are paid a set hourly rate per child, based on age and in some cases, disabilities. The hourly rates range in amount from 90-cents to one dollar.
DHSS Assistant Director and Manager of the Child Care Services Division Louisa Tuiteleleapaga said yesterday, “The rates are to help off set child care costs. It is nowhere near the amount necessary to care for a child 8-10 hours per day, but it helps a great deal.”
Some daycare centers charge for child care only for the hours that the child “clocks” in and out, while a couple charge a flat monthly rate and deduct the DHSS reimbursements from the monthly bill . (Daycare centers under the DHSS program each have scanners hooked to computers that require kids to sign in and out using their thumbprints).
Currently, a total of 36 daycare centers participate in the DHSS Child Care Program. As of the end of the first quarter for the current fiscal year, on Dec. 31, 2013, a total of 2,245 children were served under the program. Of that number, 21 were under the “Actively Seeking Employment” category, which is for parents who can prove that they are looking for jobs.
The DHSS Child Care Program has been available in the territory since 1985 and is federally funded.
Each year, owners of daycare centers under the DHSS program sign MOUs with DHSS, which detail their roles and responsibilities, and what is expected of them.
Yesterday’s meeting was not only to sign the MOUs but to discuss changes for this year, which include flat rate payments - something the majority of daycare providers want to see become a reality, as it ensures that payments and reimbursements will increase.
Under the new addition, flat rate payments “shall be applied across all age groups, whereby the (daycare) provider is eligible to claim the maximum monthly total for each child that is served at least 75% of the maximum billable hours, based on the child’s age and whether they attend school, unless otherwise stipulated in the current MOU.”
Additionally, “when schools are formally out of session for the entire month, the maximum billable hours will be adjusted to 200 hours, unless otherwise stipulated in the current MOU.”
Currently, all daycare centers under the DHSS program are given a set hourly rate, a maximum billable number of hours per month, and a maximum monthly total (flat rate). However, with the flat rate payment program, there is now a set minimum number of hours that are listed for flat rate application.
Tuiteleleapaga said that the flat rate payment program is something that has been in the works for quite some time now, but there were legal issues that had to be ironed out first.
She said the program was supposed to go into effect last year but the legal sufficiency review took longer than anticipated. The good news is, the grantor has issued its approval of the program, in terms of getting it incorporated into the State Plan.
According to Tuiteleleapaga, DHSS Director Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona is supportive of the program and it is their hope that after everything pans out, the flat rate payments could be retroactive back to Jan. 1 of this year, meaning more money for the daycare providers.
Tuiteleleapaga explained that while the flat rate payments would increase reimbursements for child care providers, not all of them will qualify.
Right now, anyone who wants to own and operate a daycare center in the territory can apply for a business license and get started. However, only those who want to participate in the DHSS program need to go through the Child Care Division.
All daycare centers under the DHSS program are subject to monthly visits by DHSS staff who check for, among other things, compliance.
More information on the DHSS Child Care Services can be obtained by calling 633-1571/1572 or by visiting their office on the ground floor of the Fagatogo Square.