What Should We Do About Caregivers Operating Illegally?

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I hope we can all agree that people caring for children in violation of their state’s child care licensing rules should not be allowed to continue to operate.

This seems like a very simple proposition, yet there are tens of thousands of child care providers operating illegally across this country.

It’s a problem for several reasons. First, it’s not safe for children to be in a home with other children that does not meet state health and safety standards. Second, illegal child care providers are probably not paying their proper taxes and that harms our economy. Third, it’s unfair competition to licensed family child care providers who do meet licensing rules and are harmed financially when a parent chooses illegal care.

What is to be done?

I want to draw a distinction between child care givers operating illegally and those who are exempt from their state child care licensing rules.

Illegal providers should become licensed or should be shut down. Exempt providers should be allowed to continue to operate, however I’m concerned that some states allow exempt providers to care for too many children.

The risks illegal providers face

Providers operating illegally face several risks:

  • They can be fined by the state for violating state regulations. The amount of the fine varies by state.
  • They can be sued by parents if there is an injury. They can’t get business liability insurance so they are at greater risk than licensed providers with insurance. Their homeowners insurance policy won’t cover them and their policy can be cancelled if an attempt is made to make a claim. If the child’s injury is the result of negligence because of lack of proper supervision, the provider could face criminal charges and jail time.
  • If they aren’t reporting their income they are at higher risk for an IRS or state tax audit and will owe penalties and interest.
  • Parents who use illegal providers caring for more than six children aren’t entitled to claim the federal child care tax credit. If they do and they are audited, the IRS is likely to then audit the provider.

What can you do?

How can we reduce the number of caregivers operating illegally? Parents aren’t likely to act. The government has shown little interest. Therefore, it’s current licensed providers and child care advocacy organizations that must step up.

I strongly recommend that if you know of someone operating illegally that you educate them about the requirements of becoming licensed. If they don’t get regulated you should turn them into your local licensing agency. If that fails to solve the problem, call the police or turn them into the IRS.

Child Care Resource and Referral agencies, family child care associations and child care unions also must respond in the same way.

I’m serious.

I’ve described a two-step process for dealing with this in my article, “A Plan to Eliminate Illegal Child Care.” In it I discuss how to approach providers operating illegally and how to contact the IRS.

We aren’t helping children if we allow this to continue on such a massive scale. It also undermines the field and reflects badly on those following the rules.

What do you think?

Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/divik/


Categories: Advocacy

5 replies

  1. This has been a rough spot in Montgomery County MD for years.
    OCC does not have the man power to always follow-up on these complaints.
    Yes I have called and spoken to both OCC and the provider who laughs and says nothing will happen to me???

    I feel a whole Media outlook needs to be addressed.

  2. This has been a rough spot in Montgomery County MD for years.
    OCC does not have the man power to always follow-up on these complaints.
    Yes I have called and spoken to both OCC and the provider who laughs and says nothing will happen to me???

    I feel a whole Media outlook needs to be addressed.

  3. I fully agree with you, Tom! It’s not safe for the children nor fair to legal providers. It drives our professionalism down and there is more competition! The rates these providers charge are either the same as licensed providers who get all the training and then some or they charge considerably less and we are under cut!
    It costs money to provide high quality care! ( licensing fees, training costs, being a part of a professional organization, background check fees, fingerprinting fee, renewals if accredited or the cost of becoming accredited, etc)
    Thanks for addressing this issue!

  4. There is a women who is providing childcare, and has been for several years. I called our licensor, and she has said it is very difficult to prove. Many times, when the licensors show up after a complaint, they simply lie and say these children are related or close family friends. She posts regularly in our local “Buy, sell, swap” site, and is often recommended by others. I have taken the opportunity to cut and paste the “regs” in this same site to point out that parents need to be sure providers are LICENSED for their own children’s sake and theirs! I just don’t think parents, in general, know this is and ILLEGAL practice! They are just looking at the “bottom line”!

  5. When will the system penalize the parents for using illegal care?