Mess that is Day Care Licensing
family child care licensing practices are increasingly dominated by the desire to avoid even the mildest publicity
risk, leading to micro-management of day care homes, harming the children and their families. Our Minnesota Department of Human Services and our day care
licensing workers are turning family day care children into "Second
Class Citizens", sacrificing the safety, healthy development, and civil rights
the children, their families, and their child care providers.
Child care providers are being micro-managed,
harassed, and humiliated. The number
of licensed providers in the state has dropped from 17,000 to 11,000.
In Hennepin County, where the regulations are the most
problematic, the number of licensed providers has dropped from over
4,000 to a bit over 1,000.
Writing from personal experience, being a child care
provider in Hennepin county has become more difficult, more
embarrassing, and with a greater and greater requirement to provide
sub-standard care to our children. The better a provider is, the more
difficult will be their work life. As the best providers know,
raising children properly, successfully, always involves a little risk,
a few adventures, a chance for kids to learn how to handle a challenge.
The government reacts by making the regulations even more harmful,
silly, wasteful, and foolish, thus driving away ever more high quality
gradually losing the family child care option. Children are being harmed. We
need to do better.
Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota State
Legislature, the Hennepin County Day Care Licensing Unit, and numerous
individual licensing workers -- acting alone -- have been
issuing large numbers of new licensing regulations which are not in our existing
day care licensing rule, known as Rule 2 (9502.0300 to
9502.0445). Rule 2 has worked reasonably well for 40 years. Now that Rule is under attack.
The new requirements and regulations have been subjected
to little or no public review and
seem to be motivated primarily by fear of bad publicity and the desire
to avoid all risk to DHS and licensing workers, even at the cost of
harming children, families, and child care providers.
presumably well-intentioned additions and changes to the day care
licensing rule have several common features: un-reviewed or
minimally reviewed by parents, providers or relevant experts; ignorance
of what is best for kids and their
families; careless waste of the child care provider's
valuable time, resources, and money; and nearly always cause more
hurting children and their families.
Some of the new requirements were written as mis-guided
responses to specific events, especially events which attracted
publicity. Other of the new requirements are responses to imagined
threats, or simply as ways for licensing workers and DHS staff to make
their mark by "improving" child care standards. At least some are based
simply on ignorance and fear of criticism. Item number one in my list
of problematic new rules is an example of this last category.
Unfortunately, this collection of licensing rule additions is
long and complicated. I assure the reader that the changes taken as a
whole paint a picture of a child care licensing system which is out of
control, causing damage to the entire state of Minnesota. I ask
your patience as you make your way through this lengthy compilation.
parent choice of sleeping positions for Infants. Child
care providers are forbidden to allow an infant (under one year of age)
to sleep in a baby swing, in a car seat (even while traveling), a bouncy chair, a sling, a back-pack, a stroller, or their
own arms. Providers are not allowed to swaddle babies, even if the baby needs swaddling to sleep well, even when requested by parents, even though swaddling is widely recognized as safe and effective.
Only a firm crib mattress and a modern sleep sack are allowed,
regardless of parents' requests for alternative sleeping arrangements.
regulations hurt babies and violate the rights of their parents.
If a family is having trouble with their baby
poorly, parents may drive around until the baby falls asleep in her car
seat. Safety extremists disapprove of this, but they cannot yet prevent
it. If however the parents then bring the sleeping baby to their
child's day care provider, and she is persuaded to allow the exhausted
baby to finish her nap in the car seat, then she may lose her day care
license. Yes, this has already happened.
ban on parent choice was passed by the Minnesota Legislature, it was passed with
minimal public or provider review. The ban seems to be based on one preliminary
research study of two-day-old newborns. This study determined that
newborns who are left in car seats for extended periods of time
experience a slight drop in blood oxygenation levels.
If this same drop in blood oxygenation levels were
occur in much older infants, and this seems unlikely, then those older infants might be marginally more likely to die of SIDS if
left in a car seat for a greatly extended period of time.
However, we do not have the slightest evidence
occasional sleep in baby swings, car seats, strollers, slings, or backpacks is in
any way risky or harmful for older babies, two months and up. In fact,
a variety of sleeping positions helps to prevent the flat head syndrome
which is afflicting hundreds of thousands of infants.
This ban on parent choice of sleeping arrangement
is extraordinarily cruel. Many
babies need to have options in order to sleep properly. In my child
care home, we have cared
for several infants who slept beautifully in a baby swing, and were
completely unable to nap in a crib.
Many desperate parents drive
their babies around in a car until they find peaceful sleep. Without
the option of a baby swing or a car seat nap, these babies cry and
cry, disturbing other children, sending stress levels
through the roof, eating poorly, perhaps failing
Worst of all, babies who cannot sleep, because of misguided
micro-management by the day care licensing unit, may fail to develop
basic trust, with lifelong
consequences. All this harm has no excuse, no basis in fact.
Check out this brief article from Childrens
Hospital in Los Angeles: no evidence for or against
sleeping in a car seat.
Here is a blog
on car seats and SIDS.
A major Canadian study indicated that in every case they studied, death
of young infants in car seats was caused by the car experiencing a
sudden lurch throwing the
infants head forward. A "sudden lurch" is rather unlikely for a baby
finishing out an occasional nap in a NON-moving car seat
at home or in child care.
Articles on car seats and SIDS emphasize that any
given to parents against excessive use of car seats applies to babies under two months of age,
not the population of babies most commonly found in child care. In my
child care home we have served only one baby under two months of age in
over 35 years. She was five weeks old.
The Internet is filled with endorsements
of the value of infant swings, stories of parents
who describe these devices as "a life saver". How cruel that day care
babies must suffer lack of sleep, and be made into
"second-class-citizens" by safety extremists, who have no
evidence that baby swings are harmful. Click
here to see that the SIDS network agrees that baby swings are safe.
Mandated Reporter Law: both county and state
day care licensing staff routinely violate the intent and spirit of the
Minnesota Mandated Reporter law, as well as the
constitutional rights of child care providers.
I know this has happened at least
once, because the licensing
people did it to me. If
what I was told by one DHS staff person is correct, this thwarting of
Mandated Reporting -- by child care licensing staff -- has happened
literally thousands of times, and still
today. I will present the story of my own experience.
A few years ago, three young school-age children hid in a
closet and looked at each
others privates. We caught them and reminded them that privates must
remain private. We did not scold or punish anyone. Parents were
immediately informed. No one was harmed, and no parent complained.
Being a conscientious child care provider, I reported this incident to Hennepin
County Day Care Licensing.
After I self-reported this incident, Hennepin
County Day Care Licensing created a correction
claiming that they had "received a complaint regarding your
licensed child care home". Even
one had complained about us, the day care unit
created a permanent public record which stated that a complaint had
been lodged, but they could not reveal who had complained.
here to see the Correction Order plus my hand written annotation.
During the long and
expensive process (over $8,000) of having the fake complaint removed
from our record, I was told by several County and State DHS personal
that what happened to us was standard
operating procedure. One person
at DHS claimed that they have re-characterized a
of problems as a complaint
the provider thousands of times. The DHS
expressed surprise that I was concerned. She said that I was the
first provider to challenge this standard practice!
here is the situation, as was related to me. Every time a family child
care provider follows the Minnesota
Mandated Reporter Law, self-reporting an incident, that
provider is punished
non-existent anonymous complaint on their permanent public record! I
amazing. The County and State are punishing honest child care
providers who are responsible and follow the Mandated Reporter law.
This is a clear
violation of both the intent and spirit of the mandated reporter law,
which was designed to protect
people who report a problem. What our family day care
licensing people are doing, at both the state and local level,
thwarts mandated reporting.
I have no way of confirming that
this has been done to any other child care providers beside myself.
However, the several licensing people I spoke with were quite clear
what was done to me was normal. Please pause now and think about what
is actually happening here
in Minnesota. Child care providers are being told that someone they
know, a client, employee, or neighbor,
has secretly turned them in to
the government. These are the terror tactics of the secret police,
totalitarian society creating fear, suspicion,
providers are told --falsely-- that someone they
know, a client, employee, or neighbor,
has secretly turned them in to
I have suggested
to both DHS and to Hennepin County Day Care Licensing that to correct
this situation, they need only record and post a self-report of an
incidents as a
"self-report", and not
as a "complaint against your day care home". I have received
swimming at beaches. See Item 4, Banning bunk beds. Recently
the Hennepin County Day Care licensing unit has decided, with
public input or hearings, to ban all trips to the beach for Minneapolis
day care children. The mechanism of this ban is the new requirement that
a life guard be present whenever kids are taken to the beach, and
Minneapolis has no lifeguards at the beach on weekdays.
This ban is not required by the licensing rule.
requires that kids at the beach be supervised by an adult who can swim
and is certified in CPR. Those simple requirements have always been sufficient. The ban on beach
trips for family day care kids was not based on any problems with beach
trips, no day care child has died at a Minneapolis beach, and requiring a life guard does not necessarily keep the kids
Drownings are actually much more common
on weekends, when a lifeguard is present and the beaches are crowded
and chaotic, and during evenings, when darkness and alcohol are often
If you visit a public beach on a weekday
morning, when child care providers usually bring their kids, you will
see very few kids in the water, and a host of moms
watching the kids. The
number of adults watching is far greater than the number of kids in or
near the water. The scene is quiet, with few or any teens,
and little risky behavior.
Again, I ask the reader to review what I said
banning bunk beds. If we ban all risk, adventure, fun and
excitement from the lives of our young children, those children will
almost certainly take far greater risks later, when we can no longer
protect them. As a natural part of growing up, children are driven to
challenge themselves, to experience danger. We can allow small dangers,
under our watchful eyes, when we can help and give advice, or we can be
certain that he kids will choose far greater dangers, out of anger and
resentment, when we are no longer around to stop them. Pay now or pay
much more later.
The day care licensing unit
trades the false appearance of safety today for far greater danger later,
when they, the licensing workers, can no longer be embarrased by a
possible problem. In this way our family day care children are made
into second class children, banned from ordinary activities, common fun, and healthy growth. Again.
6. Fear of baby powder? Yes,
our licensing worker cited us, put a black mark on our permanent
record, because our baby powder was too accessible, too close to the
worker told us that baby powder causes "suffocation". Surprised,
I asked what she meant. She then claimed that baby powder causes
"asphyxiation": baby powder actually kills children who get hold
of the bottle of powder.
This is utter nonsense.
No child has ever died, not ever anywhere in the world, from
playing with a can of baby powder. They do make quite a mess, and
have a little too much fun, so we are careful to keep the can closed,
and prevent baby powder play.
7. Flexible cord foolishness. Everyone
in Minnesota except family child care providers may use an extension
cord. Electricians use them, state legislators use them, doctors,
lawyers, and fire fighters all use extension cords. But not child care
providers, not even if the cord is properly installed, meets the electrical
code, and makes their day care home nicer and safer.
Since the 1970's,
the Hennepin County Day Care Licensing Unit has handed out a
safety check list banning all "flexible cords", including extension cords.
If enforced as written, child care providers would not be allowed
to have refrigerators, radios,
lamps, computers, washing machines or driers in our homes. I have
pointed out this problem in letters, and in person, dozens of
times to various licensing workers and supervisors. Some listened with
puzzlement, but no one has ever responded to my complaints.
More recently, for the last five years or so, the day care
licensing unit has adjusted their focus to banning extension cords,
although they still also ban all "flexible cords". The focus on extension
cords is perhaps less comical, but it is also more harmful, because of stricter enforcement.
care licensing rule states "extension cords shall not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring".
This actually makes sense, but the licensing workers and day care
licensing unit clearly do not understand what the rule means, so they
ban all extension cords, even when the cords are being used safely
Just imagine if County "logic" on extension cords were applied to other things:
"Extension cords may not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring,
therefore extension cords may never be used at all."
Then: "Pencils may not be as a substitute for permanent ink, therefore pencils may never be used at all.
Diapers may not
be used as a substitute for permanent plumbing fixtures (toilets),
therefore diapers may never be used in Family Day Care Homes."
And: "Water may not
be used to sub for nutritious beverages such as milk or formula,
therefore water may not be served in Licensed Family Day Care homes.
No child may drink water in a day care home."
Our day care play room has
twenty-two permanent outlets, generous by any standard. I used an
extension cord with a flat plug to safely bring power to the top of a
set of toy shelves, to plug in a boom box and a digital clock-sound
machine. The flat plug, also called a right-angle plug,
on the extension cord fits safely behind the shelves. If I plug the
boom box and digital clock directly into the wall, then their
"straight-line" cords are crushed, bent hard over, which is not safe. So, the extension cord I used increased safety.
The amount of power used by the boom box plus the clock
radio is tiny, about 23 watts. The extension cord is rated by UL labs to
safely carry 1340 watts, giving us a huge safely margin. Plugging a
boom box and a clock into an extension cord would be OK in any home in
the world, unless that home is also a day care home in Hennepin county.
Another example from my day care home: we have wonderful "winter
lights" suspended around the perimeter of our living room ceiling. The
ceiling is dark, solid oak beams. These white lights shimmer and
twinkle in ever shifting patterns, against the dark oak ceiling.
And valuable to our program. We work hard to teach our children
that "Christmas is not everything. Materialism is not everything." We
teach the kids that WINTER is also to be celebrated. After Christmas,
we get out our white decorations, as opposed to red and green, and we
put Father Winter and the lovely Ice Queen up where the kids can enjoy
So, these white twinkling lights are a valuable and desirable part
of our child care program. We had to solve the problem of having the
kids safely turn on and off the lights every morning and night. We
tried several ideas, finally settling on a wonderful "extension cord"
with a built in foot switch. Safe and easy to operate. Zero shock
hazard. The kids loved it.
Until our licensing worker said "no extension cords, ever." I am really tired of this.
This is how being a licensed child care provider is
humiliating, difficult, and annoying. This is one more reason that the
number of licensed providers is plummeting.
Strangely, the licensing workers do allow us to replace an
extension cord with an outlet strip. Apparently, they do not realize
that an outlet strip is just another extension cord. Ironically, the
outlet strips allow a provider to plug in more stuff, increasing the
chances of overloading an electrical outlet. The ignorant enforcement
of a poorly understood rule actually makes our
homes less safe.
I see it like this: Forty+ years ago, some licensing worker or
licensing supervisor was trying to write up guidelines. She or he knew
little or nothing of electricity or electrical engineering, so she
decided to "err-on-the-safe-side"!! No extension cords and, while we
are at it, no flexible cords, ever, period.
Now, everyone in the licensing unit is afraid to challenge this nonsense.
8. Good training replaced by bad. More
and more of our training requirements are a waste of time, motivated
entirely by headlines and fear of political embarrassment. This
wasteful training is must be taken over and over, and has greatly
reduced opportunities to take valuable training which we want and need.
The silliest of these is the annual requirement
that we take a class about Shaken Baby Syndrome. We take this
class again and again and again, as though the child care providers
will suddenly forget and shake a baby. Yes, Sahken Baby Syndrome is
horrible, but this requirement is a rediculous waste of valuable time.
We are also required to take CPR classes again and again.
I have had CPR at least 14 times, each time using up an entire
day. Whan I take an all day CPR class, I generally do not have
time to attend an all day training conference, so the CPR replaces my
regular child care training.
This would be OK,
if we did not have a better alternative. However, studies have shown
that a CPR class on DVD is more effective than the long, boring live
classes. We could have one hour CPR classes on DVD as part of any all
day training conference. The video CPR class would be
cheaper, much shorter, and still allow me and others to take more child
care related training. Quality child care training is one way to avoid
the need for CPR. An ounce of prevention...
-- This section will be continued. --
-- See below for closing remarks and my suggested solution to the licensing mess. --
The never-ending mess.
Minnesotans have allowed the government to be deeply involved in
the care of more than half of our children, those children in
licensed day care. The welfare and comfort of the licensing workers and
the Minnesota Department of Human Services licensing staff has
superseded the provision of high quality child care. To me this seems
inevitable. I do not see any way to convince licensing workers to allow
the normal risks which are absolutely essential to raising a healthy
child and to attracting and keeping enthusiastic and skillful child
Everything which makes life
worth living carries risk, and can sometimes lead to problems,
scandals, and embarrassment to government regulators.
In my opinion the only solution to this is to eliminate
child care licensing and replace it with registration. The state of
Michigan has registration for family child care providers, and they
have better outcomes than we do here in Minnesota. Michigan has fewer cases of SIDS in day care, as well as fewer injuries
in day care homes.
- Swim classes have sometimes-- rarely-- resulted in the death of swim class students. Do we ban swim classes?
- Horse back riding results in injuries. Ban horses?
- Pets are wonderful and, on rare occasion, dangerous. Licensing people have already banned dozens of excellent pets.
are dangerous. Licensors don't like them. Normal mild mishaps are
labeled "lack of supervision" and punished severely.
- Health department workers and licensing workers have repeatedly tried to ban teddy bears, stuffed animals, soft toys, rugs.
workers are obsessed, hysterical, panicked, over the possibility of
normal children peeking at each other privates, and are therefore against
blanket forts, play tents, appliance boxes, or any form of cozy
- The child care food program has rules for serving food which promote poor nutrition and obesity in our children.
pencils, staplers, scissors, paint brushes are all pointy, may cause
accidents or be used as weapons. Will they be next to be outlawed?
- Tricycles, bicycles, roller skates, scooters, skate
boards, any thing with wheels is far too risky in the eyes of licensing
- Trees may be climbed, kids may fall. Typical licensing workers prefer to fence them off or cut them down.
is inedible, as are most tree and shrub leaves. We have been warned
over and over that we should not have such dangers in our play yards.
Concrete and black top can cause scrapes, bumps, and bruises. Child day
care play yards should be made of a soft foam plastic, but with no play
equipment. Is that a joke? An exaggeration? No, unfortunately not.
I have also been told
informally that child care providers in Michigan are not quitting at
the same precipitous levels as they are here in Minnesota, but I have
not been able to confirm this. I myself would much rather be registered than licensed. My stress levels would be lower, my work life easier and simpler, our day care children would be safer, and the quality of care we provide would be significantly higher. Sad, but true.
Turner and Kauper Child Care Home