Even so, I find the organization of a self-interested PAC by licensed day-care providers with the aim of shutting down their competition, to be downright ... well, I'd use the word "scary," but scare tactics is exactly what they're about here.
From an editorial in today's Snooze Journal:
Would you take your child to an unlicensed pediatrician? Would you put your child on a school bus with an unlicensed driver? What about your day care provider? Would you entrust your child all day to an unlicensed, potentially hazardous provider?...
There are about 1,300 independent licensed home day care providers now serving Delaware families. Licensed providers follow state regulations, take training classes and have their homes inspected each year. But there are also many homes -- no one knows the number -- where child care is offered by people who have no licenses and no training, and who are not inspected or regulated. Unlicensed facilities, headed by operators with uncertain backgrounds, can pose a threat to every child in these homes. Right now, the state is unable to shut down these dangerous facilities effectively. They are difficult to track down and, once found, difficult to enforce any sort of regulation upon.
Acknowledging that there is an issue here to be discussed, this editorial represents gratuitous fear-mongering of the worst sort, and Janet Nagengast, Sharon Strohm and Nancy Martin should be ashamed of the presentation.
Let's just start with the number of slick, unwarranted assumptions in the paragraph above:
1) Unlicensed day care providers "have no training." Really? How do you know? I know of several such providers who are LPNs and RNs, a standard of training that presumably exceeds that required for state licensed day-care providers. Whose responsibility is it to determine the acceptable level of training for the person who cares for your child, anyway? You, or the State? Will a State license make you entrust your child to somebody you inherently don't get a good vibe from?
2) Unlicensed day care providers are "not inspected or regulated." Beyond innuendo, where's the evidence that such inspection--beyond limiting the competition our authors face--is actually necessary or even a positive. Here's one example, provided to me by a licensed provider: State regulations are so contradictory that they often cannot be followed. Licensed providers are required to have a first-aid kit with certain items in it. One of the items required by one State agency in inspection is an anti-biotic ointment. But another State agency says you can't use that ointment on children. So the provider has to have a tube of that ointment in the first-aid kit, marked "do not use" in order to pass unannounced inspections. Yep, that State regulation is critical.
3) Unlicensed day care providers have "uncertain backgrounds," because they have not paid for background checks. Aside from the fact that public education proves every day across this country that background checks don't effectively screen out perverts and molesters, it raises a real question: who is responsible for deciding to whom I will entrust my children? I've known my next door neighbors for ten years--should I have a background check conducted by the State Police before I allow my children to be cared for in their house, for an hour, a day, or a week? You'll note what this article is short on: evidence of harm. While fear-mongering, all that the authors can come up with is a case from Texas, and not the slightest bit of evidence that the lack of background checks for unlicensed day care providers has caused any harm.
4) Unlicensed day care providers "pose a threat to every child in these homes." Really? What threat? What evidence? Tugging on my heart-strings is one thing, but let's get serious. I didn't bitch when the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wilmington decided on its own to put all catechists and priests who work with children through background checks. There was a documented problem. Likewise, there have been documented problems in Delaware with foster parents, and changes in the regulations there. But to make the blanket accusation that unlicensed day care providers are a threat to every child they provide services for is a defamatory statement requiring evidence to back it up. And the authors have NOT provided any.
Ah, but we can't afford to wait for a problem, we're told:
That's why our group of licensed independent day care providers has organized a political action committee to effect change throughout the state and to protect Delaware's young. The Delaware Childcare Awareness Network has a mission to educate parents, the public and lawmakers. Our objective is clear: "Helping Providers, Protecting Children."
The state of Texas initiated a public awareness campaign to educate parents and caregivers after the tragic deaths of several children in unsafe unlicensed facilities. We don't want to wait for a tragedy in Delaware.
The Delaware Childcare Awareness Network is ready to partner with lawmakers, state agencies and parents to make changes and make sure Delaware kids in day care are as safe as they can possibly be.
This is followed by a list of all the wonderful things that licensed providers can give you that unlicensed providers don't.
I say this (and it will be lost in translation, I'm sure): I have no problem with licensed providers organizing a public awareness campaign [which would otherwise be called a "marketing campaign"] to demonstrate their superiority.
Let's be real, however, and discuss what's really at stake here: restricting competition in the lucrative day care industry.
There are 1,300 licensed day care providers in the First State. There are probably just as many unlicensed providers, though i suspect the unlicensed providers tend to care for fewer children.
What happens if our legislature passes the restrictions that this PAC wants?
1) A considerable number of new bureaucrats, social workers, and enforcement agents will have to be hired.
2) Thousands of parents will lose their day care options or become criminal accessories overnight.
3) The cost of day care at licensed providers will sky-rocket (and its already outrageous in most cases). Even at the higher rates, there will not be sufficient capacity to meet the need, and thus....
4) Many working poor families will be forced to turn to elderly grandparents, sibling care, neighbors, or even quit their jobs in order to take care of their children.
On a moral and ethical level, this initiative raises another critical question: who is responsible, ultimately, for making the decision about where my children shall be cared for? Me, or the State?
(As a dead giveaway about the motivations of these folks, look at what they tout: licensed providers assist the State in reporting on whether your child gets regular physical exams and immunizations [they can turn you in]; they pay income tax on their fees [waa-waa, we hate the underground economy]; they qualify for Federal tax credits and matching funds from upscale corporate employers [which tells you what middle-class fears we're playing on here]; and my personal favorite, "Are you sure the "Uncle Charlie" at your day care isn't a sex offender?")
The reality, folks, is that unlicensed day care exists because it meets a critical need: affordable child care. Licensed child care is a great idea for those who believe that State certification is what matters in determining who should care for their children, and also for those who can afford to subsidize the higher costs of licensing that are inevitably passed on to the consumers.
If you don't want your child in an unlicensed facility, here's a thought: don't send the little tyke there.
But please stop the fear-mongering until you actually have some evidence to back it up.