Zealous Regulators, Dangerous Grandparents, and a Prosecutor's Discretion: A Child Care Round-Up
Officious Regulation Restricts Supply
The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is cracking down on so-called Parent's Day Out programs, which offer part-time child care services and are exempt from licensing. The TDHS (which decided it had not been enforcing existing law) will now require centers to obtain a license if they operate more than twice a week. Providers worry they will have to offer fewer hours or jack up prices on beleaguered parents to comply with the many requirements.
Licensed programs that look after more than 13 children must abide by 80 pages of regulations. For instance, centers must:
- provide 50 square feet per child on playgrounds,
- provide 30 square feet per child in nap rooms,
- have written lesson plans,
- not force toilet training on a child too soon,
- hold naptime and snacktime at the same time each day,
- and conduct classes in the first floor of a building.
So Parents Turn to UNSAFE Providers
According to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) conference this Sunday, grandparents are unaware of the latest directives from the AAP regarding child safety. Of the 49 grandparents surveyed, nearly three-quarters thought walkers were good devices to help kids learn to walk, almost half thought having stuffed animals in cribs was fine, and nearly a quarter would place a child under two years old in a forward-facing car seat—all practices the AAP deems inadvisable. Moreover, 56 percent didn't know infants should sleep face up (to prevent against sudden infant death syndrome).
An estimated 2.8 million grandparents were primary caregivers in 2011—up almost 20 percent since 2000 (via the U.S. Census' American Community Survey). Grandparents may be an attractive infant-care option because centers cost more—on average—than college tuition (for in-state students at four-year public schools).
…And Malicious Prosecutions!
A Washington County, Minnesota, jury took less than half an hour to exonerate a day care provider accused—by a disgruntled parent—of locking children barefoot in a shed this past February to avoid inspectors. Although there was no evidence beyond the accusation—all three children denied the charges—social workers and prosecutors went ahead with the case and "all things being equal, we would charge another person under like circumstances again," said Fred Fink of the Washington County Attorney's Office.