Two children died while attending a child care program. One child lived in Missouri and the other was from North Dakota. Although their deaths occurred several years ago, the two children shared one thing in common.
Both were under the care of an unlicensed caregiver.
The caregiver in Missouri is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and fatal child abuse. She continues to care for children even after a judge told her to stop. The parents of the child are lobbying the state legislature to pass a law that would prevent unlicensed child care workers from caring for children if they are facing serious criminal charges. See more.
The parents of the child in North Dakota are trying to bring criminal charges against the caregiver. Newspaper stories about the case inaccurately refer to the caregiver as being “licensed.”
By coincidence I learned about these two children yesterday. I immediately thought of last month’s hundredth anniversary of the New York Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that killed 146 garment workers, mostly women. The tragedy lead to the passage of stricter safety standards and the rise of a women’s labor union that fought for better working conditions.
Parents using child care believe that child care regulations are stronger than than they really are. According to a 2008 report by the National Association for Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies the vast majority of parents surveyed believed that all child care providers are trained in first-aid and CPR, have background checks, and are inspected by government agencies.
Sadly, this is not the case for unregulated child care programs which make up a large segment of our child care system. In fact, even child care licensing regulations are sometimes weak and not adequately enforced in many states. Our federal, state, and local government policies do not put the health and safety of children as the number one priority. Current budget cuts in many states will reduce government oversight and so more children will die.
Child care regulations do matter.
What can be done? I believe that the child care field should do more to educate parents about the differences between regulated and unregulated child care. Child care advocates along with family child care associations should push local authorities to crack down on illegal child care. See my previous article, “A Plan to Eliminate Illegal Child Care.” Advocates and associations should also lobby at the state level to strengthen, not weaken, child care regulations.
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: cathedralofhope.org