Family child care providers who operate from their homes in violation of their state child care licensing rules are hurting the child care field.
And not much is being done about it.
Providers operate illegally for a variety of reasons:
- They don’t understand their state’s regulations
- They can’t get licensed (inadequate space, failed background check, etc.)
- They got fed up with licensing rules and decided to operate illegally
There are several problems with illegal child care.
First – I think everyone agrees that keeping children safe is the number one priority for family child care providers. Licensing rules provide minimum health and safety standards. There are some illegal child care providers who offer excellent care. However, I believe that the vast majority of illegal providers don’t meet these minimum standards. This is a problem. They are also unlikely to meet higher standards set by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems.
Second – Illegal providers can’t get business liability insurance. Even though a lot of licensed providers don’t have this insurance, everyone should. All providers without such insurance run a great financial risk.
But, more importantly, illegal care undermines the entire child care industry by making it very difficult for parents to sort out what quality care is.
All the efforts by providers, child care organizations, state agencies and funders to improve the quality of child care are undercut by illegal providers. Illegal providers generally charge less and thus make it harder for licensed providers to successfully compete. I can’t think of another industry that allows illegal competition to flourish without negative consequences to the violators.
There are many problems in the child care industry. The cost of care is high for many parents, yet many providers don’t make a reasonable wage. Some licensing rules are burdensome and are inconsistently enforced. As government and private agencies try to raise quality standards, there are few financial rewards for providers who meet the highest standards of quality.
Bringing change to the child care industry so that all children have access to high quality child care at a reasonable price delivered by providers who can make a decent income doing so, has been an extremely difficult challenge over the years.
The solution isn’t simple. In the end, we need a child care system where illegal care is not tolerated. However, until all child care providers and child care organizations agree on this, it will be difficult to make progress.
I’ve previously written two articles:
Daycare.com has a lively discussion about illegal providers.
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: http://kidsdunia.blogspot.com/2011/08/nusery-rhymes.html