(1) The Legislature recognizes the critical importance to the citizens of the state of both safety and quality in child care. Child care in Florida is in the midst of continuing change and development, driven by extraordinary changes in demographics. Many parents with children under age 6 are employed outside the home. For the majority of Florida’s children, child care will be a common experience. For many families, child care is an indispensable part of the effort to meet basic economic obligations or to make economic gains. State policy continues to recognize the changing composition of the labor force and the need to respond to the concerns of Florida’s citizens as they enter the child care market. In particular, the Legislature recognizes the need to have more working parents employed in family-friendly workplaces. In addition, the Legislature recognizes the abilities of public and private employers to assist the family’s efforts to balance family care needs with employment opportunities.
(2) The Legislature also recognizes the effects of both safety and quality in child care in reducing the need for special education, public assistance, and dependency programs and in reducing the incidence of delinquency and educational failure. In a budgetary context that spends billions of dollars to address the aftermath of bad outcomes, safe, quality child care is one area in which the often maligned concept of cost-effective social intervention can be applied. It is the intent of the Legislature, therefore, that state policy should be firmly embedded in the recognition that child care is a voluntary choice of the child’s parents. For parents who choose child care, it is the intent of the Legislature to protect the health and welfare of children in care.
(3) To protect the health and welfare of children, it is the intent of the Legislature to develop a regulatory framework that promotes the growth and stability of the child care industry and facilitates the safe physical, intellectual, motor, and social development of the child.
(4) It is also the intent of the Legislature to promote the development of child care options in the private sector and disseminate information that will assist the public in determining appropriate child care options.
(5) It is the further intent of the Legislature to provide and make accessible child care opportunities for children at risk, economically disadvantaged children, and other children traditionally disenfranchised from society. In achieving this intent, the Legislature shall develop a school readiness program, a range of child care options, support services, and linkages with other programs to fully meet the child care needs of this population.
(6) It is the intent of the Legislature that a child care facility licensed pursuant to s. 402.305 or a child care facility exempt from licensing pursuant to s. 402.316, that achieves Gold Seal Quality status pursuant to s. 402.281, be considered an educational institution for the purpose of qualifying for exemption from ad valorem tax pursuant to s. 196.198.