The Value of Not Backing Down

6a0133f3fc5805970b01b7c6f89344970b-320wiHere’s the story of a family child care provider who didn’t back down and won.

Most child care providers prefer to avoid confrontations. This is the case whether the conflict is with parents, your Food Program sponsor, your licensing worker, or the IRS!

It’s understandable. No one wants to argue, particularly when the person you are arguing with is in a position to cause you financial harm, or loss of your license.

When I talk with providers about disputes with the IRS, often I tell them, “Don’t back down. Ask the auditor for a written authority to support his position. If he can’t produce something, keeping fighting.”

This general advice about how to stand up for yourself worked well recently with a provider who was in a dispute with her Food Program sponsor.

Here’s what happened

The provider was applying to receive the higher Tier I reimbursement rate when her sponsor told her she must include the income of the other person on her child care license. Her licensor had told her she must list a co-applicant on her license if she hired someone.

Her employee was also her landlord to whom she paid monthly rent for her apartment.

The Food Program rules state that a provider must include the income of everyone who lives with her as part of her “economic unit.”

Clearly, her employee/landlord was not part of her economic unit. However, the sponsor wouldn’t back down, so the provider contacted me.

I couldn’t understand why the sponsor wanted to include the income of her employee. I told the provider to push back and ask her sponsor what rule they were following that supported their position.

The sponsor replied to the provider’s request by saying that they were relying on a 2009 letter from the state agency (Department of Education) that commented on a case where both co-licensors were child care providers.

The provider insisted that this letter didn’t apply to her case and referred her sponsor to me.

The sponsor called me and we discussed the issue. The sponsor insisted that they had to include the income of anyone listed on her license, even though the person was not part of her “economic unit.” I said that was was not the correct interpretation of CACFP rules and asked her to contact the Department of Education for clarification.

The next day the provider told me that she was accepted as a Tier I provider!

“I’m glad I didn’t back down on a benefit I felt I was entitled to. This wouldn’t have been possible without your expertise,” she wrote me.


This provider shouldn’t have had to go to this extent to win her case. The sponsor clearly wasn’t following the rules. But, it illustrates the point that you shouldn’t back down, even in the face of someone telling you can’t do something.

The morals of this story: Persistence pays off. Backing down is often the wrong choice. Don’t back down unless you know you are wrong. Ask the other person to prove that she is right by producing a document that supports her position. Don’t hesitate to go above the person’s head (in this case, the state agency) to ask for clarification from a more knowledgeable source. You can win!

Tom Copeland –

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Categories: Advocacy

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3 replies

  1. Interested to hear the response on swaddling. Here in Minnesota it is state law that you cannot swaddle an infant. Swaddle sacks are acceptable…single piece unit with Velcro closure across upper torso, hips and legs cannot be constrained.

  2. I’ll be interested in the topic of swaddling. Recent studies have shown “if” you swaddle an infant to not bound their arms, as the movement of their arms help with their breathing and lungs. They are saying over swaddling is connecting to SIDS. In hospitals where a new born is monitored around the clock and they are still swaddling. I think we’ll see the change to keeping the arms out just like the change to have babies sleep on their backs; it will take time but I think this is information will become a rule, as of now it’s best practice. Thanks for your information Beckie (WA. St.)

  3. Tom is based out of MN so he is pretty current on the state/county laws. A swaddle sack is still ‘swaddling’ by definition, and it is ‘allowed’ within specific ramifications.

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