INDIANAPOLIS - State lawmakers and child advocates took another step Wednesday toward further regulation of church day cares in central Indiana.
The Committee on Child Care toured three day cares including two registered ministries, which have to follow roughly 20 state regulations compared to about 200 for a licensed day care center.
"We need to get a birds-eye view of exactly what is going on in the child care ministries thoughout the city and state," said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.
Taylor pointed to the recent death of several children at registered ministries as one reason he's pushing for legislation.
His bill would require ministries that received federal CCDF vouchers to follow the same regulations as licensed centers.
"If you want to run a facility your way, you can't receive state money," said Taylor. "If you receive state money, we have an interest in making sure those funds are invested in the state of Indiana."
After the tour, lawmakers and child advocates shared concerns over one of the registered ministries they visited -- Hopewell Little People on East 38th Street.
"Everything bothered me," said committee member Tracie Wells. "It was not clean, it was not safe."
Wells also expressed concerns about a lack of staffing ratios, which registered ministries are not required to follow by law.
"Twenty children on a playground with one provider out there, and then the door to the utility closet open with buckets of bleach," said Wells.
The Call 6 Investigators stopped by Hopewell Little People, but staff members refused to speak on camera.
A man who identified himself as a manager told RTV6 to stop taping, even after the Call 6 Investigators left the property.
"I don’t want to be on camera," said the man, who said his name was "Mister Williams."
The Committee on Child Care also toured a registered ministry that voluntarily follows tougher regulations.
Little Doves East 10th United Methodist Children and Youth Center is a Level Three on the Paths to Quality rating and improvement system, meaning they voluntarily implement things like staffing ratios and an education curriculum.
Executive Director Jean Casmir Hill supports further regulation of registered ministries.
"I think it's important for the health and safety of our children to have basic minimal standards, and right now, for registered ministries that is not the case," said Hill.
Eric Miller of Advance America, a vocal opponent to increased regulation of church day cares, said he would be concerned about "the government impacting freedom of the church."
Miller declined further comment until he sees actual legislation.
"This has nothing to do with vacation bible school or Sunday school issues," said Hill. "This is about day care, child care and the safety of children in every day care."
FSSA Child Care Administrator Melanie Brizzi told the committee while many ministries do more than is required by law, some others do not.
"It's a combination of lack of information, lack of training, lack of staffing," said Brizzi.
Sen. Travis Holdman told RTV6 as many as a dozen bills could come out of the Committee on Child Care.
They're expected to meet again on Oct. 29.
They will create a report that will be submitted to the entire state legislature.