The Unfortunate Child Care Regulation Debate

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By: J. Glenn Hopkins, President/CEO

It is bad enough that 2014 was the deadliest year for children in unlicensed day care in Virginia, but the reluctance of some state lawmakers to deal with this tragedy is even worse.

According to a recent report in The Washington Post, 51 children have died in unregulated day care over the past ten years, nine in 2014 alone.  This is a new record for such deaths in Virginia.
Unlike most other states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia, day care providers of fewer than five unrelated children are not regulated in Virginia.  With the exception of Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County, unregulated day care providers are not required to be licensed or inspected, or to have fire detectors on the premises.  And, workers in these settings are not required to undergo safety training or criminal background checks.  An estimated 200,000 children in Virginia are cared for in these unregulated day care settings.
Some Virginia lawmakers fear that regulating small home child care providers will increase the cost beyond the means of many parents and limit their options.  This is a monstrous argument not only because it implies that parents, if given the choice, would choose unregulated care for their children over regulated care, but also suggests that it is acceptable for children of low-resourced families to be cared for in unsafe and sometimes dangerous day care settings.   
While we applaud Governor Terry McAuliffe on his plan to introduce legislation in the coming General Assembly session to regulate unlicensed providers receiving state subsidies, this will cover just a fraction of the thousands of unregulated providers in the state.

We are delighted that State Delegate Richard L. Anderson plans to sponsor legislation to regulate home day care and disheartened that his legislation is, as he puts it, "probably not going to be politically doable."
"We regulate pet stores more than we regulate these home day cares," says State Senator Barbara A. Favola.  Sadly, she is right and unregulated child care is wrong.  
Safe child care should not be a luxury available only to the upper income but a basic right of all children in Virginia.  All day care providers, regardless of the setting or number of unrelated children they serve, should be licensed, regularly inspected, and required to have fire detectors and other safety equipment on premises.  All child care workers should be subject to criminal background checks and required to undergo regular, comprehensive training.  Parents expect their children to be cared for in safe environments by trained and screened child care professionals.  And, our government should ensure that this is the case.
Contact your state representatives (click here to get contact information) and let them know how you feel about this issue, then ask your neighbors, friends, and colleagues to do the same.  



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