Guam - No one can deny reliable safe childcare is crucial, but at what cost? A bill at the center of debate today could change the way Guam operates daycare centers. Any parent of a young child knows daycare doesn't come cheap. Now the expense could take up even more of the family budget.

A bill to change regulations governing the childcare industry on Guam faced public scrutiny today.  Roland Duenas, who owns Kids R Us and Guam's Little Treasures in Tamuning, looked on and says the changes will likely impact parents' pocketbooks.  "You will see increases in charges to the parents," he surmised, adding, "currently today, you would probably see a lot of unemployment skyrocket because a lot of parents can't really afford the daycare we are providing."

Public Health Social Services Bureau Administrator Lydia Tenorio agrees, saying that cost is a major factor.  "Cost is definitely going to be involved; cost will be involved in all aspects, it will impact the providers but it will also impact the department because we need to look at how we are going to increase the resources to look at how we are going to go out there and do the work we need to do."

But Tenorio insists the updates are needed, saying the regulations have not changed since 1978. Under Bill 455, the child-to-caregiver ratio would decrease, meaning providers would have to hire extra hands. Training for caretakers would also increase.  "We have pretty much progressed from just looking at sitters or daycare providers as babysitters we are looking at supporting the learning emotional growth of out children," she explained.

Duenas agrees children's welfare is important, but says regulations such as having pads under playground equipment just doesn't translate to Guam.  "Having U.S. standards and Guam standards, it's very difficult to see, but basically you couldn't compare their standards to ours."

When asked about some of the concerns of the small daycare owners that are able to meet all of the requirements, he replied, "Well, you know, these particular issues are core issues - the ratio is a core issue, playground, health and safety has been a core issue, growth has been a core issue.  These are core issues that have been raised have been discussed and debated upon sixteen years ago when the department initiated efforts to update the standards."

Sixteen years in the making - but for daycare owners like Duenas the change may be coming too fast. He says he want to see things taken more slowly giving the industry time to adjust to the radical change.  "If we can be able to just come together and work together with one another, I feel that we could get a better hold on the childcare services that we do provide today," he stated.

Tenorio concedes there is room for change, but points out liability can't be overlooked, saying, "Because if any thing happens out there, the first thing they are going to do is point at the department or point at the government because we were the ones that issued and approved the operation of this business and provided them with the license they need."

And losing that license to operate is a consequence daycare providers will face if they don't follow the guidelines - if they are passed into law.