Illegal Family Child Care Providers Undermine the Child Care Industry

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:

“What Should We Do About Caregivers Operating Illegally?”

“A Plan to Eliminate Illegal Child Care” has a lively discussion about illegal providers.

Tom Copeland –

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Categories: Advocacy, Marketing

11 replies

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.

  2. Why is it always people trying to bring negative to unlicensed daycares? There’s just as many crappy LICENSED daycares out there ….. Bring light to both sides … So sick of these articles seriously.

    • I make a distinction between unlicensed care that is legal according to state licensing rules, and illegal care that is illegal according to state licensing rules. Illegal care is the problem. There are crappy licensed providers. However, without minimum health and safety standards, illegal care, in general, is a threat to children and is unfair competition to licensed providers.

  3. Thank you. There needs to be a penalty/fine in place for unlicensed providers. Each time they operate without a license the fine and penalties should increase. It is the only area I know of that does not punish for being unlicensed.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on illegal child care. Just this April the State Colorado passed SB17-110 (Accessibility of Exempt Family Child Care)
    This bill makes it legal for anyone over the age of 18 to care for up to 4 children in their home without obtaining a
    Family child care license. These individuals will not have to submit to background checks and are not required to complete the the minimum training required by licensed providers such as Infant CPR/First Aid, Standard Precautions, Infant Safe Sleep just to name a few. It is a slap in the face to all licensed providers who work diligently to keep the children who have been placed in their care safe.

  5. This just came up on a home daycare board I am on. One person posted that she was told by a lawyer “WHERE DOES IT SAY WE ( HOME OWNERS ) HAVE A LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF KIDS IN OUR HOME. The State wants you to believe that law exists, but there isn’t one . He said NO ONE can tell you how many people you can have over .. unless you Rent”. She said if the unlicensed person doesn’t let the state in there is nothing they can do. The lawyer, police, city officials, according to her, had said that without a license the state couldn’t do anything about how many people/children were in your house at a time. I had never thought of it that way and am wondering what you think of this. This was in Missouri but it seems logical to apply this logic in other states. Basically it’s our license that is giving them the power to walk into our homes and see how many kids are in it and without the license they have no authority to do so if we refuse to let them in.

    • That’s pretty interesting actually. It would be expensive to fight tho. The state is like the gustapo sometimes. Like he mentions in this article – some of the rules are burdensome and not followed consistently. Someone mentioned there was one before, but I’ve never seen it – we need unionized protection with an attorney like the one you mentioned working for us. Sometimes I question whose making the rules and whose the person advising that person…? They need to all be daycare providers or former providers.

    • Each state has its own child care licensing rules. Homeowners can certainly have as many children over as they want. However, once the homeowner starts charging money for caring for children, then licensing rules kick in and the state can enforce the rules by fining the homeowner. So, if you care for children for pay, in violation of state child care rules, the police or licensing workers or child protection workers can certainly come in your home and fine you or arrest you, depending on state laws. You can verify this by talking with your local child care licensor.

    • Us truth they are miserable people bc they work with the state they feel with law

  6. I am a state certified, and a licensed family childcare learning home. That being said, I definitely understand why some providers are leaving the system. Here in GA, the regulations change every few years and the inspectors do not keep up with the differences between inhome and center based care. We are being targeted by some of the state inspectors who are anti home based care. I have been a professional care provider for over 30 years, and although I love my work and the children, I despise those inspectors that try to intimidate me. Not that they get very far when they try it!

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