SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The Department of Social Services is taking public comment through May 22 on proposed rule changes for child care services. 

In a public hearing notice, DSS said the rule changes repeal four chapters and add one new chapter regarding regulating child care in South Dakota. The proposed changes would relax some of South Dakota’s child care rules and at least one group is publicly against the changes. 

“South Dakota has some of the most relaxed rules already,” Kayla Klein told KELOLAND News. “Essentially, we’re giving people more children and preparing them less.” 

Klein is a child care advocate in South Dakota and represents Early Learner South Dakota, which aims to give children access to high-quality early learning experiences. Klein said she has been working with DSS since rule changes were starting to be discussed in December and she said that’s led to good compromises. 

“We will continue that relationship. It has been amazing to work with them. We just don’t agree in this one particular area,” Klein said. “There are studies out there that do not directly correlate the relaxing of rules to an increase in spots.”

In the public hearing notice, DSS said the reason for the new rules is “to remove barriers to licensure for child care providers, ensure federal health and safety standards are being met, reduce the administrative burdens to providers, streamline language and provide better clarity overall.”

People can comment on the proposed rule changes by attending a public hearing Friday at the DSS building at 811 East 10th Street, call into the meeting, mail comments to Teresa Schulte or email

The deadline is 10 days after the public hearing held on Friday, May 12.  

“They will put out another set of rule changes. Whether or not they make changes that is yet to be seen,” Klein said. “They’ll release a final document, which will then go to the administrative rule committee in the legislature. Then that legislative committee will officially vote for or against them.” 

The DSS rule changes come as child care continues to be an issue throughout South Dakota. In 2022, state lawmakers approved $100 million in federal funding for state regulated child care providers in South Dakota. More than 600 child care providers received federal money and DSS is still overseeing $38 million in discretionary funding from the American Rescue Plan Act that must be spent by September 2024.   

Various towns and organizations continue to look for solutions to the difficult business model. KELOLAND News reported on the Crooks community raising money to build a new child care center this week. 

Klein said there should be more parties involved in the child care process and it’s unfair to leave DSS solely responsible for the rules and regulations. 

“The better question is to not necessarily look at the barriers, but how can we provide incentives for individuals to want to start childcare businesses? Right now in South Dakota, those virtually do not exist,” Klein said. “We need to find ways to encourage child care.” 

Any child care provider caring for 12 or more children is required by the state to become registered, so many smaller in-home daycare providers don’t register with the state. It makes the task of understanding capacity for child care hard to find.

Klein pointed out South Dakota’s child care regulation for 12 is more than double any neighboring state. North Dakota and Iowa require licensing with any child care provider with 6 children, while Nebraska is required for four children and Wyoming is three children. Minnesota requires a license for any children of a second family.  

Here’s a look at the rule changes Early Learner South Dakota is opposing. 

Extra infant for in-home family child care 

One of the proposed rule changes would allow child care at family homes to care for three infants and 13 total children. Currently, one adult can have no more than four of the 12 children under the age of two years and no more than two can be infants. 

“Not only is this a concern because we have seen that severe injury and death can occur when there are more children in a space,” Klein said. “But in the earliest years of a child bonding with a loving care provider is the most essential.” 

Klein said DSS records show there were 75 complaints about registered family child care homes and eight complaints about group family child care homes in 2022. There were also four reports of serious injuries by registered family child care homes in 2022. 

Klein pointed out many news reports on infant deaths only cite happening in a “day care” setting and do not identify if the day care was licensed or unlicensed by the state.  

Child care ratios 

DSS’s proposed rules would allow four children under the age of two in a child care setting where there are 20 or less children. Klein said it’s normally a 5-1 ratio for children under the age of three. 

“You could have four six-week-olds in a group of 10 with one care provider,” Klein said. “Infants need a lot more attention and care than some of the older kiddos who are expressing more independence once they can walk, talk and those types of things.” 

Training requirements 

Currently, child care providers need 20 hours of annual training for child care centers, while group home providers need 10 hours of annual training. DSS is looking to make the requirement 10 hours across the board. 

“In South Dakota, you can essentially become an educator in a classroom and the only requirement you need is to be 18,” Klein said. “These training requirements are essential that we have all of our educators being properly prepared for the environments and providing quality care and health and safety to our youngest children.” 

Supervised by “hearing” 

Klein said DSS has unclear language about how close in proximity you need to be to children while they’re sleeping. A rule change would allow children over 18 months can be supervised by “hearing” if all children are resting and visually checked every 15 minutes. 

Klein said one provider should be able to see the children all the time. 

“Even during naptime and not just being within hearing distance, because children can be quiet when they wake up,” Klein said. “They can more likely get into things that they necessarily shouldn’t be getting into.”