This is a simple goal that I think all family child care providers, parents, and organizations in the child care field should support.
State laws vary greatly, so the definition of illegal care will vary from state to state. We may never achieve consensus among the states about the specifics of child care regulations, but I hope we can agree that a child care program that operates in violation of their state law should be shut down.
My definition of illegal child care does not include child care that is exempt from state laws, that is, care that is not required to be regulated by the state (kith and kin, relative care, care for one family in some states, and so on).
When I speak about illegal care I am also not including state regulated child care providers who are in violation of a particular state rule (for example: over enrollment on one day).
Throughout the country, illegal child care is widespread. I could open up an illegal family child care home in any part of the country, and practically nothing would be done to stop me from operating.
Illegal child care is unfair competition to those program who do follow the rules. It undermines the reputation and quality of care for the entire child care field.
Unfortunately, the child care field is reluctant to address this issue. Parents are not going to lobby to drive out illegal child care. Politicians won’t act unless pressured by the public.
Since I believe that everyone in the child care field agrees that children should not be cared for in an illegal setting, it is up to us to take action for the sake of these children.
Our goal should be to end the practice of illegal child care. Persons who are currently operating illegally should either become regulated under state law or should be shut down by local authorities.
I propose a two-step plan for addressing this problem.
Step One: Education
Since some parents and illegal child care providers do not understand what is and is not legal, I recommend that these organizations initiate a community education campaign.
This campaign should educate parents and child care providers about the benefits of regulated child care. It should also define the differences between illegal, exempt, and regulated care in the local area.
One example of a local activity might be to insist that all classified ads in local newspapers and online referral services such as Craigslist post a definition of what is legal child care and forbid illegal caregivers from advertising.
This education effort should also include a plan for how the public can report illegal child care providers and what local regulatory agencies will do in response.
Ideally, local authorities should inform illegal child care providers that they must become regulated or shut down their operation. If a child care provider refuses to shut down, local authorities should take legal action to enforce the law.
Family child care providers should work through their local associations to establish a cooperative partnership with their local Child Care Resource and Referral agency and their local child care regulatory agency to pursue this public education campaign. State and national associations such as the National Association for Family Child Care should also assist local campaign efforts.
Step Two: Enforcement
What should happen if child care associations do not receive cooperation from local regulatory agencies? Regulatory agencies may not be willing to take actions that leads to the shutting down of illegal child care programs because of budgetary or other reasons.
If this is the case, child care associations should discuss what further actions can be taken with their local police department. Turn over the names of illegal programs to them and ask that they be investigated and fined. After all, it’s against the law!
If none of this effort leads to effective action against illegal child care, I recommend that child care associations report these illegal caregivers to the Internal Revenue Service.
It is quite probable that illegal child care providers are not reporting all their income to the IRS. I have spoken with IRS officials about this issue and they have indicated that they do want to hear about illegal child care providers so they can recover unpaid taxes.
You may call the IRS criminal investigation informant hotline (800-829-0433) or you may write to the IRS to report an illegal caregiver. No matter which method you choose, your name will be held in confidence by the IRS. If you wish, you do not have to identify yourself when turning in an illegal caregiver.
If you write to the IRS, you can use IRS Form 3949-A Information Referral that asks you to answer a few simple questions about the illegal child care provider. You do not need to know the illegal child care provider’s Social Security number or have proof that the person is not reporting all their income.
You may also simply write a letter to the IRS instead of filling out this form. Send your correspondence to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Again, you do not have to identify yourself in your letter.
An IRS official has informed me that they are more likely to investigate if they hear from more than one person. Therefore, I suggest the child care associations have several different members of their organization fill out Form 3949-A.
If the IRS investigates and determines that the illegal child care provider did not report all her income, they will take action to collect this unreported income. This will put pressure on the provider to become regulated or to shut down.
Are there illegal child care providers in your community? What are you doing about it?
For more, see “How to Report Suspected Fraud Activity?”
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
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