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Church Day Care Centers Are Exempt From State's New Star Rating System

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GARNER — Day care centers across North Carolina are about to receive a star-rated license:one to five starsdepending upon the quality of their programs. However, 410 centers run by religious groups are exempt from the requirement.

When 9-week-old Jonathan Elkins was born, his mother, Amy, only considered one day care center, the Sonshine Learning Center run by the First Church of the Nazarene in Garner.

"I go to church here, and I believe in the ministry," Elkins says. "They offer to the community and to the families here and the great help that they have."

Church day care centers must follow state health and safety guidelines, but they are not required to get a state license. Many fear that being licensed by the state means losing control over their program.

"We decided we did not want to be licensed. We keep ours as close to state regulations as the state would recommend," says day care director Jackie Cook. "This way, we still have a say in ours."

Stephanie Fanjul oversees child care for the state. She says the exemption was made because teachers in church day care centers have different educational backgrounds.

"It's not a loophole," Fanjul says. "We felt that since some religious programs had a different track for their teachers that we shouldn't force them to fulfill that particular requirement."

Fanjul says that the state does not control curriculum, including religious teachings, even in a licensed center. There are nearly 19,000 children who attend non-licensed religious centers across the state.

Churches are allowed to run a day care with a notice of compliance. In order to get a notice of compliance, the day cares must meet minimum health and safety rules.

However, they do not have to meet certain rules about staff qualifications, yearly training hours and rules related to activities for the children.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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