Regulation

Hey, Regulators. Hands Off Child Care!

The experts want us to entrust our kids to expensive, micromanaged strangers rather than pay our friends and neighbors to look after them.

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When my son was very young, my wife and I paid a neighboring family to watch him during the day. They fed him, along with other kids, ran 'em loose among the pigs and chickens on their land, and taught him to say "horsie" while he was balanced on the back of one.

We neither knew nor cared about any applicable regulations, since we trusted the family. In retrospect, some days the care was perfectly legal and others it wasn't, depending on whether they were tending to more or fewer than four children—the magic cutoff in Arizona below which all is well, and above which a doom-laden critical mass of yard apes is achieved. Not that I care any more now than I did then. The arrangement satisfied everybody involved and that's all that matters.

The arrangement would have been clearly illegal the entire time if we lived in Connecticut, where I attended high school, since "caring for even one unrelated child on a regular basis for more than three hours a day requires a license from the Office of Early Childhood," according to the Hartford Courant. There, a "shadowy underworld of illegal child care" has journalists all aflutter over the dangers children face watching cartoons and munching peanut butter sandwiches in other people's living rooms.

Oh no! Why would anybody entrust their children to an illegal shadowy underworld (as cool as that sounds)? Well, it turns out that "most of the unregulated providers are known to the parents—a neighbor or a friend—and the convenience is attractive. Parents of infants are also sometimes hesitant to leave their babies with people they have only just met, the specialists said." In addition, unregulated day care is cheaper, "undercutting licensed home providers by as much as $150 per week."

So… entrust your beloved children to expensive strangers, or inexpensive friends and neighbors. It's so hard to decide.

Theoretically, all of those friends and neighbors could get legal by submitting to the costs and bureaucratic requirements of licensing. But that puts them on the radar for inspections. And there are so many rules by which to abide that all 20 Connecticut home day care providers scrutinized in a 2013 audit "did not comply with one or more state licensing requirements."

That's every single one examined.

How niggling can rules be? In New York City, officials decreed that day care inmates are allowed only four ounces of juice per day, subject to a drinking age of two years old. The kiddies are only allowed 30 minutes of "sedentary" time per day, and 30 minutes of screen time per week.

If only the unwashed masses appreciated regulators' efforts on their behalf.

"TV can be educational, and not all juices are bad," objected one mom, Victoria Clark, to the New York Daily News. "They want to control everything," added Eric Diaz, a dad. "Every kid has their own level of intake."

But even that city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, objected to state efforts to further tighten the regulatory screws and "create more bureaucracy" that would further hike costs, target unlicensed providers, and put day care beyond the reach of many lower-income residents.

Despite regulators' claims that unregulated child care is dangerous, and anecdotal tales of crib deaths and kids left in vans by day cares unanointed by red tape, many parents continue use unlicensed and often underground care-providers. Researchers say that "at least 20 percent of children whose parents receive federal child care subsidies are enrolled in license-exempt child care" around the U.S. The number is higher among families paying out of pocket and able to choose providers according to their own standards and budgets—50 or 60 percent is commonly cited.

It's likely the regulations themselves that drive parents to use child care that falls below the regulatory threshold or that operates in defiance of the law. Blame both their intrusiveness and the costs they impose on providers that are then passed along to families.

When it comes to child care, "regulation intended to improve quality often focuses on easily observable measures of the care environment that do not necessarily affect the quality of care but that do increase the cost," found economics professors Diana W. Thomas of Creighton University and Devon Gorry of Utah State University in a 2015 paper for the Mercatus Center. They reported that by hiking the cost of care regulations tended to raise the price beyond the reach of many and so drive single mothers out of the workforce and onto welfare.

Red tape and its associated costs also can drive parents, as we've discovered, to a "shadowy underworld of illegal child care."

Thomas and Gorry note that regulators justify intrusive rules by claiming they improve the quality of care. In particular, authorities tend to focus on child-staff ratios and group sizes. But, "Our review of the literature suggests that, at best, regulation of nonmaternal child care has a small effect on overall child development outcomes. Tighter standards have a limited ability to increase child outcomes."

And those expensive regulations imposed by authorities tend to reduce the wages child care providers can afford to offer, limiting their ability to attract skilled staff. That's ironic, since better-educated staff actually seems to have some relation to improved outcomes.

Thomas and Gorry have important points to make, but they're hardly alone.

The avowed intention of child care regulation "is to ensure minimum health and safety standards for the children and to guarantee responsible care by the day-care provider," acknowledged Karen Lehrman and Jana Pace of Consumers' Research in a 1985 policy analysis for the Cato Institute. "Unfortunately, many requirements do little to achieve these aims, while a major effect of regulation has been to raise the cost of day-care services, driving providers underground and limiting the number of children who can benefit."

That earlier study was published three decades before New York City started dictating how long kids in day care could sit and how little juice they could sip. And it was equally long before Connecticut journalists bemoaned the large number of state residents watching their neighbors' kids without submitting to licensing requirements.

Busybodies and bureaucrats claim to have our kids' best interests in mind, as if we should trust their judgment more than our own. But all they seem capable of accomplishing is micromanaging approved child care into a form that's highly restrictive and unacceptably expensive. And they make the care offered by our friends and neighbors look ever-better by comparison.

As regulators have been told more than once, it's time for them to back away from child care and let parents do what's best for their own kids.

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49 responses to “Hey, Regulators. Hands Off Child Care!

  1. Too bad that the game is over. With President Hillary the regulatory state will be all powerful.

    Libertarians may as well pack it in, we’ve been routed.

    At least the good news is the one freedom the state will allow while taking all the others away is smoking pot.

    1. It doesn’t work that way.

      Democrats will complain about the setup too because they will suffer from these dumb rules too.

      So what will happen next is that there will be more politicians soliciting power in order to give you ‘hope’ while promising you ‘change’.

      People are getting what they asked for, and the result is more division and more inequality.

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    1. Exactly! How can your Latina babysitter be “niggling”?

      1. Well, she’s short. You’re not height-ist are you?

  2. depending on whether they were tending to more or fewer than four children

    So it’s illegal for a family to have more than five children?

    Seriously though, this is a great example of the Baptists and Bootleggers. The politicians are making these rules for the stated purpose of protecting the children, when the real beneficiary is the childcare providers.

    1. It’s not even benefiting the licensed childcare providers, who are losing business while having to put up with intrusive do-gooders.

      No, the only people benefiting are the intrusive do-gooders who get cushy government jobs.

      1. Childcare providers benefit in that unlicensed competition is criminal.

      2. And the more providers who can be punished by “the intrusive do-gooders”, the more raises and bennies go to those same “intrusive do-gooders”…

      3. Money given to the State is used to benefit the State first, and the State’s vallals second. Any benefit that accrues to the taxpayer is doubtless an oversight.

    2. I can’t think of an instance where the regs are written such that your own family members are counted.

      The licensing threshold ranges from state to state, starting at 1 and going up to 13. In some instances the regs are written such that only unrelated children are counted and in some states the provider’s own children count towards the total. In all instances I know of the regs include a “for pay” clause.

      1. Don’t expect that salutory exception to stand for long.

      2. Illinois actually goes farther … you can care for as many kids (and kids are defined as 11 or younger only) as you want without a license as long as they are related to you – so not just immediately family. However, add even a single unrelated kid and if the total is over 4, you need a license. Fortunately, they are actually not all that hard to get in Illinois. (https://www.illinoislegalaid.org is a good source for details.)

  3. We need you back here, 2Chili. Time to get back in the saddle, man.

    When our first kid was born and before my wife did the stay at home thing, we had one of our best friends (who was also a stay at home mom) take care of the kid. It was good for everyone – a little extra money for our friend, peace of mind for us and a great situation for the spawn.

    It makes me happy that she was ‘shadowy, underground child care’ – I’ll have to let her know.

    1. It makes me happy that she was ‘shadowy, underground child care’ – I’ll have to let her know.

      Well, if the kid were corralled in a basement…

    2. Same. Although our fomer shadow provider has been transitioning to legit over the last year. Probably because her little ones aren’t so little anymore and its not just a bunch of toddlers running around.

  4. Swarthy agents of the state shrouded in the strangling ebony of draconian cogs whirring and clanking legality and overreach deep within the heaving underbelly of the societies they hustle to manage exist purely as the premiere goddamn definition of ‘shadowy’.

    Hypocrisy runs mud thick in this contemporary.

  5. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
    More rules -> more inspectors -> more costs -> more violators -> more inspectors -> more costs
    More taxes at every stage, less choice at every stage, until it gets so bad that children will be required to be cared for in state-run creches. Which, somehow, are not held to any standard and any of whose failures or problems will be met with “but look how bad it was before!”

    1. 10 years ago, I would have written this off as a crack pot conspiracy theory but I see it happen all the fucking time in other industries. The line between Poe’s Law and reality blurs a little more.

      1. At some point, no idea my age, it finally sank into my head that government is simply incompetent. Forget ethics and philosophy and all that for the time being — focus on competency. I realized I could not think of a single thing government had been competent at. I know it started with the Vietnam War — the draft and its exemptions, the rules of engagement, the bombing holidays, micromanagement — all so fucked up. NASA seemingly did ok with Mercury-Gemini-Apollo, but at horrendous cost, and it was really the private contractors who built the equipment. Then after Apollo, they floundered like nobody’s business.

        Panic of 1907 — transcontinental railroad — war corruption — radio frequency allocation — air traffic control — every single area, they fucked it up and ruined whatever good had happened privately before they got their grubby hands on it.

        At some point I put it all together and realized collectivism and statism simply did not work, and realized I believed in individual accountability and responsibility.

        Government just doesn’t work, except to provide a means for statists to justify their own parasitic existence.

    2. “More taxes at every stage, less choice at every stage, until it gets so bad that children will be required to be cared for in state-run creches.”

      With Hillary wanting to cap childcare costs at 10% of income, I have no doubt that is their intention.

    3. I believe in separation of creche and state.

    4. And 30 years from that someone will get a law written that allows for some non-government run child care facilities (let’s call them charter child care). And the entrenched parasitic “care givers” will bitch and moan about how charters are only about the profit, all while completely ignoring the fact that the state child care facilities act exactly the same way with none of the standards.

  6. I can stand on my front porch and see two unlicensed day cares, by which i mean houses where retirement-age ladies babysit a few kids in order to make some extra scratch.

    Why does gummint hate the older ladies?

  7. Shouldn’t the headline be “hey regulators, leave that child care alone”?

  8. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Assurance that their children’s Juice Intake will be kept below four ounces per Day.

  9. It’s another step toward demanding that parents endure inspections and audits, and meet government regulations. Because the parents are merely the biological producers; the children don’t actually belong to them, but rather to the government.

    1. How else can we reach perfection? Parents have had thousands of years and we still have imperfection. It’s time to give someone else a try.

  10. My only advice, being from Quebec and in the business, this province subsidizes daycare.

    STAY AWAY FROM THAT SHIT.

    Just trust me.

    1. Shouldn’t you be caring for children at 9:47 AM instead of posting on blogs?

      1. As Rufus is a fine, upstanding libertarian- I’m sure he has a couple spare monocle polishers available to actually do the work while he swims in his gold coin pool that even makes Scrooge McDuck envious.

  11. Also thia should be titled: “Hey Regulator, leve those kids a lone” alt text: “we dont need no regulation”

  12. Tom Copeland, a Minnesota-based lawyer and expert in the home child-care business, said that of any setting, a child is at most risk in the home of an unlicensed provider.

    Might be interesting to check the statistics on that one in Newtown, Connecticut – especially in the Sandy Hook Elementary School neighborhood.

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  14. a child is at most risk in the home of an unlicensed provider.

    Sure, if “unlicensed provider” is defined to include everything from beloved aunt Mavis watching the kids for an hour after school to OMWC’s basement

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  16. Forget driverless cars-we need robonannies, since human parents and caregivers cannot ever be 100% up to the task. ( I must say that I would welcome a robonanny when my 3 year old wakes me up at 3 am asking for water).

    1. Why don’t you get one of those automatic ones, like for dogs? Put it right by his bed. Get the auto-feeder and fill it up with cereal and you can sleep in later on Saturday’s.

      1. We give him a water bottle to keep by his bed but he then complains that it isn’t cold enough…kids.

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  18. I’m so glad the government is involved in childcare. I mean, without government involvement, nobody would have any incentive to make sure that their kids are safe and happy! There would definitely be big daycare corporations that rape and beat children just to make a profit, and parents would have no choice but to keep bringing their kids back there day after day! It would be a total market failure.

    /not too far off from what some people actually believe

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